search and rescue effort

Pierce EMA assisted in the search effort for Sanders.

A Jacksonville man drowned in the Satilla River near Moccasin Creek Off Road Park Memorial Day weekend.

Thirty-five-year-old Robert Jermaine Sanders was pronounced dead Saturday, May 23, after reportedly doing a flip off the river bank into the water. According to the report, Sanders surfaced, then went under and was not seen again.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Game Warden Judd Sears was called to the scene Saturday afternoon by Pierce County dispatch regarding a possible drowning. DNR is handling the death investigation that occurred on the Brantley County side of the Satilla River.

According to a Pierce County deputy, Sanders reportedly swam across the river to the Brantley County side where he did a backflip off the bank. Witnesses told investigators Sanders surfaced, but appeared to be struggling and grabbed for a limb as he drifted under a nearby tree and went under the surface again. Sanders was not seen again.

A homeowner on the river called in the incident. At least twelve individuals reportedly witnessed the incident and provided statements to investigators.

A diver with Brantley County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) searched the area for Sanders, but was unsuccessful in locating the body. Wayne County’s dive team arrived approximately an hour later and also searched unsuccessfully for the victim. Surface searches and body drags continued until nearly 9 p.m.

Searches further down the river continued the following day, Sunday, with several dive teams and patrol vessels utilizing sonar assisting in the search. A DNR helicopter also patrolled the area.

Brantley EMA’s patrol vessel located Sanders’ body at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 24. The body was brought to the nearest boat landing and the victim’s family notified.