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Man drowns in Ogeechee River

Search teams recover body almost 24 hours after incident

Man drowns in Ogeechee River

Man drowns in Ogeechee River

Dive teams search on Monday for the b...

    The body of a man who drowned Sunday in the Ogeechee River was recovered Monday afternoon near the Rocky Ford landing, near the Bulloch/Screven county line.
    Johnny Lockett, 53, Ga. 25, Millen, was swimming and playing with children around 2:30 p.m. Sunday when he dove into the water and never resurfaced, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
    “We saw his hand come up and then it went down, and we didn’t see him any more after that,” said Joett Henry, Lockett’s niece.
    Family members, bystanders and emergency responders searched the river for hours Sunday, and dive team members continued the search Monday as friends and family waited nearby.
    Bulloch County Sheriff’s Inv. Jared Akins said Lockett’s body was recovered around 1:40 p.m. about 25 feet from where he was last seen, near pilings underneath the bridge.
    Statesboro Herald employee Robin Bradford was at the river landing Sunday when Lockett disappeared under the surface. She said Lockett spoke to people in her group and then entered the water.
    Suddenly a woman began screaming and Bradford called for someone to dial 911. A man with her jumped in to help Lockett, she said.
    “Three other men proceeded to follow and swam to the logs, calling his name,” she said. “I watched to see if I could find any splashes but there was no sign of him anywhere. The men swam up and down and tried looking under the water but it was so muddy and murky, there were no signs of him.”
    A woman who joined the search suffered a seizure and had to be pulled to the riverbanks, she said. Henry said the woman was a relative and suffered the seizure from exhaustion and shock.
    “I remember him as being all smiles and singing church music,” Bradford said. “It is still hard to know what happened right before our eyes. The hardest part was all of the kids, and … some (people) close to him that had to witness it.”
    Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies, Georgia Department of Natural Resources rangers and others searched for Lockett until nightfall, and the search resumed Monday morning at daybreak with dive teams from Burke County and Georgia State Patrol looking for the body.
    Brian Kent, helicopter pilot for Ellis Wood, joined the search as did members of the Bulloch County Fire Department, Georgia State Patrol, Bulloch County EMS and other volunteers, said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Investigator Capt. Todd Hutchens.
    The American Red Cross Disaster relief Team and Statesboro Fire Department Café 1 also responded to assist searchers and family members as they waited, he said.
    Friends and family of Lockett either stood or sat on the pavement at the landing entrance, fanning and swatting gnats in the heat as they waited.
    “They were all at my cousin’s birthday party and he (Lockett) was playing with the kids,” Henry said. “We don’t know if he hit his head or what.”
    The victim’s son, Johnny Lockett Jr., 29, was with the crowd waiting for his father’s body to be found.
    “He always kept a smile on your face,” he said of his father. “He loved to party and if he heard music, he was going to dance.”
    He said he was trying to be strong for his mother and five sisters during the ordeal. Although there was still hope before Lockett’s body was recovered, he said he felt as if his father was gone.
    “There’s a part of him inside me that is keeping me strong right now,” he said. “Every time I break down I hear his voice, asking me why I am crying.”
    Anderson, who was also involved in the search, said Lockett’s body will be taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Coastal Regional Crime Lab in Savannah for an autopsy. No foul play is suspected, he said.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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