Man, 23, drowns in Georgia’s Lake Lanier after slipping on dock - the eighth death at ‘haunted’ lake this year

A man drowned at Georgia’s Lake Lanier after he ran down a dock and slipped into the water - marking the eighth death at the lake this year.

Gavrie Alexander Whitlock, 23, was found dead at the Holiday Marina on Lake Lanier by the Hall County Fire Rescue on Saturday night.

The Department of Natural Resources responded to a drowning call at the lake’s oldest and largest marina at around 10.30pm after Whitlock fell into the water and didn’t resurface.

Whitlock, from Snellville, Georgia, is the eighth person to drown in Lake Lanier so far in 2023.

A week prior to Whitlock’s death, another 23-year-old man, Edgar Steven Cruz Martinez, drowned when swimming in Lake Lanier on 26 August. Before this two men, aged 27 and 61, died the same day in unrelated events; they were both swimming in the lake on 29 July when they drowned.

Several days before both those men drowned, a 24-year-old man named Thomas Shepard Milner was electrocuted after jumping off a dock into Lake Lanier.

It is estimated that more than 200 people have died at Lake Lanier between 1994 and 2022, according to USA Today and Georgia DNR.

Six people drowned in the lake last year, four in 2021 and seven in 2020.

More than 200 people have died at Lake Lanier since 1994 (Wikimedia Commons)
More than 200 people have died at Lake Lanier since 1994 (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2012, the son of Tameka Foster, a fashion designer and the ex-wife of R&B star Usher, died when a watercraft struck the boy while he was sitting on an inflatable on the lake.

The death of her son, Kile Glover, who was 11, prompted Ms Foster to start a petition for officials to “drain, clean and restore” the lake, in order to make it safe and to remove dangerous debris.

The online petition has more than 2,500 signatures.

“Draining, cleaning, and restoring Lake Lanier is not only necessary but also an opportunity to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives and prevent further tragedies,” Ms Foster wrote in her petition.

The lake has often been branded as dangerous for various reasons, and to some, thought of as haunted.

Lake Lanier gets around 10 million visits per year and had a huge volume of boat traffic on the water. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, more than 170 boating and drowning deaths have been reported between 1994 and 2018. Additionally, there have been issues with people boating under the influence on the lake, with more than 525 BUIs handed out between 2008 and 2018.

The lake’s waters can also get murky, making it harder to perform rescue operations.

The lake is situated northeast of Atlanta and is 60 square miles in size and has waters up to 160 feet deep.

Before it became a reservoir in 1956, the town of Oscarville, a small Black community was situated in its place. After lynchings that happened in the area in 1912, more than 1000 Black people were displaced and many properties and businesses ended up in the hands of white people. The Lake Lanier website explains how many theories of an ‘underwater ghost town’ have come about because of the displacement prior to the flooding of the town.

Although numbers have not been confirmed, many outlets report that around 700 people have died on the lake since its creation in 1956.

One user on X (formerly known as Twitter) commented on the recent Lake Lanier deaths and the possible haunting. They said: “Of course the lake is haunted. I would say that is more than fair… Part of some messed up history in Georgia.”

Another user commented on the previous death of Mr Martinez and said: “Camp Crystal Lake Lanier claims 7th person in 2023. The ancestors are angry, my friend.”

This X user also said: “Before Lake Lanier was created in the 1950s, it was one of DOZENS of U.S. towns racist white mobs flooded like Oscarville, GA. Lake Lanier is also one of the bodies of water legends say are haunted by our ancestors as many people have drowned in its waters.”