Man Who Died Saturday on Lake Hartwell Drowned, Autopsy Finds

Autopsy results are back from the GBI Crime  Lab on the Hartwell man who died while swimming in Lake Hartwell Saturday.

Dennis Baker, 54 of the Reed Creek Community in Hartwell died around 7:30p Saturday evening after swimming out to a floating water jug that had a fish on it.

“The autopsy results revealed it was an accidental drowning,” Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said. “We thought it might have been a heart attack or fatigue but it wasn’t.”

Authorities say Baker swam out to the water jug then swam to the other side of the cove.

“According to eye witnesses, he swam across the cove  and had reached other side,” said Georgia DNR law enforcement officer Craig Fulgum. When he got to the other side, he collapsed in the water and never resurfaced.”

Friends pulled his body from the water and called 911, but the county coroner pronounced him dead at the scene.

“This is the first drowning we’ve had in Hartwell in years,” Cleveland said. “I can’t remember the last time we had one.”

Fulgum said it was also the first drowning on the Georgia side of Hartwell Lake in many years.

Cleveland said Baker was no stranger to Hartwell Lake and had lived in the Reed Creek area all of his life.

“He had lived about two miles from where he died,” Cleveland said. “And he had lived there all of his life. He had been out there all day with his friends, fishing and swimming.”

Fulgum advises even if you are skilled swimmer, you should always wear a life jacket when in the lake and have someone with you at all times.

Fulgum said people trying to swim out to a buoy or raft or island can easily be fooled and think that the object is closer than it actually is.

As a result, a swimmer can get over tired and go under.