Little River Falls and Little Falls re-opened after swimmer drowning below Little River Falls. On the afternoon of Tuesday, May 19, 2020, around 2:15 PM, a 21-year-old female and a 19-year-old male, both from Cobb County, Georgia, were swimming in the swift waters in the pool beneath Little River Falls. Both individuals became caught up in the current; the female was able to escape, but the male did not resurface. First responders were immediately dispatched and on-scene within minutes and a search and rescue operation was initiated.
Cherokee County Coroner Dr. Jeremy Deaton has released the name of the victim who was identified as Dustin Bryan Arroyo Garcia, age 19 of Cobb County, Georgia.
National Park Service rangers, Fischer Rescue Squad, Fort Payne Fire Department, DeKalb County Sheriff Office, Cherokee County Sheriff Office, Cherokee County Rescue Squad, Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) State Troopers, ALEA Aviation, ALEA Game and Fish Law Enforcement, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Law Enforcement, Cherokee County Coroner’s Office, and DeKalb Ambulance Service all responded to the scene for the rescue and recovery.
On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, above-average flows on the river from recent storms, with associated low-visibility in the water, created circumstances which made it impossible for Fischer Rescue Squad divers to locate the victim in the area he was believed to be, and approaching nightfall caused the rescue attempt to be suspended until the following day. A foot search along the river below the falls, coupled with an aerial search conducted by an ALEA Aviation helicopter, eliminated the possibility that the victim may have been down-river of his expected location.
Unsafe diving conditions persisted on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency delivered and operated an underwater remote operated vehicle to continue the underwater search without risking additional personnel. Strong and unstable currents proved too powerful even for the vehicle and the attempt to locate the victim was once again suspended for the evening.
River conditions let up enough for continued dive attempts by the morning of Thursday, May 21, 2020. The victim was located and recovered by Fischer Rescue Squad divers at 8:50 AM and extracted from the canyon by Fischer Rescue Squad and Fort Payne Fire Department. The victim was turned over to the Cherokee County Coroner’s Office at 10:30 AM.
Our hearts and our sorrow are with the family of the victim.