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Drowning victim ID'd
17-year-old was from Duluth
drowning 1 web jd
The entrance to Little Ridge Park in Forsyth County was closed Friday afternoon after a teenager drowned in Lake Lanier. - photo by Jim Dean

A Duluth teenager drowned Friday in Lake Lanier after authorities say he waded into a steep drop-off at Little Ridge Park.

Forsyth County Deputy Coroner Ted Scarborough said teen has been identified as Ariel Cotuc Chaudjay.

Chaudjay's body was recovered by divers in 10 feet of water, about 45 feet from the shore, authorities said.

A native of Guatemala, Chaudjay was at the lake with several friends who told sheriff's deputies the teenager knew how to swim.

Authorities said the victim had waded out into the water ahead of his friends, who thought he was waving.

"Lake Lanier is not the lake it used to be," said Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers. "Due to the drought and extremely low level of Lake Lanier, severe drop-offs in the underwater terrain that were once 40 to 50 feet from shore are now 5 to 10 feet from shore."

Falling into an unexpected pit creates a hazard, regardless of whether or one can swim.

"Even to an experienced swimmer, the surprise of stepping into an abyss can be deadly," Shivers said.
The natural reaction to a steep drop, he said, is to gasp.

It took divers with the local fire department about 12 minutes to find Chaudjay.

The body was recovered about 3:04 p.m. in the same area of the lake that the divers practice swimming drills.

Karleen Chalker, a spokeswoman for the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, said neither alcohol nor foul play was involved.

Ernest Noe, a park ranger, reminded lake-goers to take precautions.

"Don't go beyond your limits and don't drink," Noe said. "Make sure you stay in eyeshot of other people."