As rangers with the Department of
Natural Resources continue patrolling Clarks Hill Lake, they're still trying to
figure out how a naval officer could have drowned in these waters. Sunday
evening Billy Sims Jr. was spending the day with other military personnel at
West Dam Park.
"A couple of the guys that
were there with him said that he usually wears a life jacket if he's
swimming," said Corporal Brien Hobbins with DNR.
But this time, investigators say
Sims wasn't wearing a life jacket when he and four other officers ventured
farther into the lake.
"Distances on water can fool
you. People say, 'Oh that's not that far,' and they get out there and it's kind
of like an optical illusion of how far it is," Corporal Hobbins said.
Park rangers say the
officer swam past the roped off swimming area to the buoy and just never made
"Made it about half way and
started panicking," Corporal Hobbins said. "The other four came back and tried to help him, but before
they could get to him he went down."
Rangers say the four dove several
times, but were unable to reach Sims. That's when the Columbia County dive team
was called to the scene. Sims' body was found about an hour after he
drowned. Rangers say friends describe
Sims as a "fair swimmer."
"Even if we're good
swimmers, you know, you might cramp up, you never know what's going to happen;
you may panic," Corporal Hobbins said.
Panicking is what
investigators believe happened to Sims. They say there were no signs of foul
play or alcohol involved in the incident, as they continue the investigation.
Saturday, August 30 2014 7:17 PM EDT2014-08-30 23:17:41 GMT
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3933 Washington Road
Augusta, GA 30907