Naval officer drowns at Clarks Hill Lake - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Naval officer drowns at Clarks Hill Lake

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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 it back.

"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.

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