‘We Had a Guardian Angel’: Teen Pulled Under Fast-Moving Current Saved by Friends’ CPR

August 15, 2020 Updated: August 15, 2020

Several teens from Athens, Georgia, were enjoying a swim on a hot summer’s day when the strong currents of the Oconee River led to a near-tragedy.

A group of friends, all Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets at Clarke Central High School, had gone to a swimming spot next to a weir that drops down a short elevation in the river.

Due to recent rainfall, the waters swelled, and one of the students, Tyler Hall, tried to climb the weir to get to higher ground but fell in and was towed under by the river current.

“He tried to come up the wall. I guess when he stepped on it, the current took him and knocked his legs off from under him and he went off the side of the wall,” friend Parker Sims told Fox5 Atlanta.

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Clarke Central High School. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Hall disappeared under the water surface for several minutes, leaving his friends unsure of what had happened to him. “I said a quick prayer because I was going to jump into the water to see if I could grab Tyler and see if I could find him,” another friend, Brodey Gray, explained.

Despite the considerable danger to themselves, there was no question of staying onshore. “That’s our brother,” Jones said of Hall. “There’s no way we’re leaving him out here.”

“We had a guardian angel or God was on our side,” one of the boys, Jakolbie Jones, said. “That’s the only reason that we’re here today.”

Thankfully, Tyler resurfaced but had taken in a lot of water and lost consciousness. His friends weren’t sure if he was still alive. “His face was purple, his legs were purple, no color. Just like a completely lifeless body,” Parker and Jakolbie told the news outlet.

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The Oconee River, Athens, Georgia. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

“Second nature or survival instincts just kicked in,” Gray explained, “and it was just a matter of find Tyler, get him out of the water, and start doing what we had to.” He called 911 and then ran to the parking spot on the road to direct first responders down to the river.

Meanwhile, Sims and Jones, who had learned CPR as part of their ROTC classes, set about trying to revive Hall. They took turns doing chest compressions and artificial respiration in the hopes that Hall would come to.

In a social media post shared on Facebook, Jones said how relieved they were when Hall finally opened his eyes. They got him breathing and talking again, and his color returned.

Finally, the paramedics arrived, and Gray led them down to the river. “I was running back down there with the thought running through my head, ‘Is he still going to be laying down or is he going to be actually moving?’” he recalled.

They arrived to see Hall sitting up, though still coughing up water. After a trip to the ICU, Hall was able to return home and recover.

The teens’ timely and courageous actions were praised not only by their parents and local news but also by their school. Clarke Central High wrote in a tweet words of tribute for the young men. “Their actions are a testament to their maturity, intelligence, and ability to apply learned skills,” the school wrote. “We are so proud of them!”

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