DNR: 2 teens rescued from High Falls State Park charged

Monroe County first responders and Macon-Bibb's Rescue Dive Team rescued a boy and a girl "stuck" on the Towaliga River in High Falls State Park May 29/Claudia Coco (WGXA)

MONROE COUNTY, Ga. -- Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Chris Hodge told WGXA that the two 17-year-olds rescued from the High Falls State Park river on May 29 have been charged with criminal trespassing.

DNR said since that rescue, at least five other people have been charged with criminal trespassing in the park as well.

The charge is a misdemeanor. It comes with a possible $1,000 fine -- as well as other consequences that will be made at a judge's discretion.

Officials have signs posted across the park warning visitors not to get into the water and DNR will charge anyone who disobeys the rules.

The night of the rescue, Monroe County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director Matthew Perry spoke candidly about the dangers of trespassing on the river for both the trespasser and rescue crews. Deputies also spoke how they wanted to charge the 17-year-olds in an effort to set an example going forward.

"It is likely that if you get caught in those falls, in the water on those falls, you're going to get a citation," said Captain Chris Hodge with the DNR.

In October 2017, another High Falls water rescue involving a helicopter was also high-risk. Emergency responders want to avoid more situations like that, which caused the death of 12-year-old Christian Burdette.

Raymond Layman, who's lived in the area for 40 years, said DNR should have cracked down on trespassers years ago. He said it's frustrating to watch people get in the water.

"A lot of people risking their lives to save these people who don't care evidently," said Layman.

Those lives include Monroe County first responders and the Macon-Bibb Swift Water Dive Team - a team that's learned from past experiences to save people like the two teens who got stuck on the falls.

"It's not something that comes overnight, it comes through training, it comes through experience, it comes through immersing yourself in your craft," said Perry.

Captain Hodge added that the DNR will post more officers at High Falls State Park. Anyone who's caught disobeying the signs will face criminal trespass charges.

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