MAYDAY -- A Brooks County boy drowned while swimming in the Alapaha River earlier this week.

Around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, authorities recovered the body of Steven Lafferty, 16, of Quitman.

Lafferty and four other teenage boys from Brooks County came to Echols County for the day to swim.

Some of the boys were jumping off the Mayday Bridge when Lafferty decided he wanted to join them despite the fact he wasn't a strong swimmer, Echols County Sheriff Randy Courson said.

"He wanted to try because they were doing it," Courson said. "I don't know what the thinking was. They told him they would help him to shore once he jumped in."

When Lafferty jumped off the bridge, which Courson estimates to be 40 feet high, he hit water about 32 feet deep, Courson said.

"He was pulling them under because he was panicking," Courson said. "They pushed him a little ways. Then they couldn't pull him anymore, and they lost him."

The Twin Lakes Dive and Rescue Team, the Lowndes County Dive Team, Echols County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Natural Resources responded.

Lafferty's mother, Brenda Norman, who works as a carrier for The Times, said she wasn't sure when a memorial service would be set for her son.

His father, Steve Lafferty Sr., who does not live in the area, said the family was doing "pretty good" considering the recent death of their family member.

"He was a good boy," Steve Lafferty said. "He had a lot going for him."

Lafferty said he was teaching his son mechanics, how to drive a truck and it was also his first year on the Brooks County High School track team.

Track coach Chris Hubert described Lafferty as an enthusiastic team player who would do whatever he asked of him.

"He was one of the few kids that never missed practice," Hubert said. "He was really a sweet kid. He had manners. He never seemed to have a crowd he couldn't get along with."

Courson said the last drowning in that area occurred about three and a half years ago.

Lately, the Sheriff's Office has been patrolling the area due to litter complaints.

"It's been a thing for years for folks to jump off the bridge," Courson said. "We run them off because we don't allow that. You're taking a risk of injuring yourself when you jump in because of the debris in the water."

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