The recent drowning of a 9-year-old girl has officials reminding the public to use caution on the Chattahoochee River.
Anna Vanhorn of Peachtree City was tubing Friday afternoon with three other children and two 19-year-old women when she disappeared in the water about 4:30 p.m.
After about an hour-long search, the Forsyth County Fire Department’s swift water rescue team found her under the water behind homes on River Cliff Court off James Burgess Road.
Vanhorn, who was wearing a life vest, was taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth where she was pronounced dead.
The matter remains under investigation by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Patty Wissinger, superintendent of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, said it appears Vanhorn and her group were caught off guard Friday by a water release from Buford Dam.
"They were downstream from the hazardous waters, but definitely there was a dam release and the water rose," she said.
According to Wissinger, water was released from the dam about 3 p.m. every day last week.
"It depends on where you are on the river, but the closer you are to the dam, the faster the water rises," Wissinger said. "We get a rise all through the recreation area over time. But of course, the farther north you are the sooner you’re going to see that."
She said the state considers the 2.7-mile stretch of river from Buford Dam to Hwy. 20 as hazardous waters.
It takes water about 45 minutes to travel from the dam to the Hwy. 20 bridge.
"It’s what I would call a fast rise of water," she said. "It’s nothing like a tidal wave or a wall of water or something like that, but it’s a pretty fast rise."
She said the water rises faster at narrower spots on the river and can catch swimmers off guard.
Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shiver said water can get as deep as 20 feet in some places after a release. In certain spots, the current goes from a relatively gentle river to a raging torrent.
Vanhorn was found about half a mile south of the Hwy. 20 bridge, Shivers said.
It is not clear where she was at the time water was released, or whether her group heard the series of sirens that sound when water is being released.
Shivers stressed that those on the water should pay attention to sirens.
"When the first siren sounds, it is a dire, urgent warning to get off the river immediately," he said, adding that the dam begins to open as the second siren sounds.
Shivers said those who can’t swim should stay out of the water and personal flotation devices should always be worn by those in the river. Children should never be allowed in the river without adult supervision.