South Georgia Teen Drowns While Duck Hunting With Friends

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By: Kara Duffy
January 8, 2014

Damascus, GA- The halls of Southwest Georgia Academy in Early County, Georgia are usually filled with student chatter and laughter, but Wednesday they were filled with sorrow and an emptiness following the death of one of their own.

"This community is just not the same, I mean, it's a hole; a void now in everyone's lives here," said baseball coach and teacher, Ben Nobles.

According to Seminole County Sheriff's Deputies, Sophomore Payson Trawick, Junior Matthew Jernigan and Senior Thomas Vines were duck hunting on Lake Seminole Tuesday when their boat capsized.

Payson and Thomas were able to swim to shore. Matthew, however, drowned.

"All of us question why and the 'what if' games," said said Matt Dalrymple, the Headmaster of Southwest Georgia Academy. "They are questioning, 'Should I have done more; should I have went back in the water and saved Matthew?'"

Students and staff are now leaning on each other, as they struggle to make sense of this tragic loss.

Dalrymple said on Wednesday they hosted an assembly for middle school and high school students.

They also had counselors, youth ministers and pastors on campus to help students through their grieving process.

Students say Matthew, who was a star athlete, playing football, baseball and basketball, was full of life and a leader both on and off the field.

"Everyone should model themselves after his work ethic and his dedication," said Coach Nobles.

"He loved life and that's what I liked most about Matthew," said senior Teel Massey. "He always had a huge smile on his face."

Friends say Payson and Thomas are expected to be released from the hospital sometime Wednesday.

By: Joe Hellriegel
January 7, 2014, 11pm

Early Tuesday morning, three boys went duck hunting on the Chattahoochee River just off Seminole Lake in South Georgia, but something went wrong.

"Actually a 911 call went in to Jackson County, Florida," states Heath Elliot, Seminole County Sheriff. "It was a 911 hangup call; they determined the call originated in Seminole County, transferred it to us. They located the origin of the call. It was from a cell phone."

Shortly after putting their boat in Fairchild Landing, their boat capsized, sending them into the cold water. Two boys swam to shore, but Matthew Jernigan didn't make it.

"Their boat sank, and two of them swam to land and were rescued," said Elliot. "We were searching for the third boy who had been found a little while ago in the water; he drowned."

Family and friends gathered to help search for Jernigan, along with area law enforcement.

"We had assistance from Jackson Co. Sheriff's Office, Florida State Patrol, DNR. Lots of volunteers and citizens of the community came out, put boats in, and helped search," continued Elliot.

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