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Ga. man rescued after four days on river

He was pale with signs of hypothermia after surviving days of rain and sub-freezing temperatures

Liz Fabian
The Macon Telegraph

JONES COUNTY, Ga. A Juliette man seeking refuge on rocks along the Ocmulgee River was rescued Thursday night after spending four days on the water.

“I don’t know how he lived,” said Jones County EMA Director Don Graham. “I’m not sure he would have made it another night.”

Thursday morning’s low plunged into the 20s.

Tyler Lee Perkins, 21, was high up on a bluff on a Jones County bank when neighbors on the Monroe County side saw him just before dark Thursday near River Mist Road in Monroe County.

One of them called out to Perkins, who complained of having a hurt foot.

“He had stepped on a cactus on that side of the bank,” said Jeff McClure, one of the neighbors who phoned for help.

Perkins had been reported missing Tuesday and told rescuers his boat capsized and sank Monday. His cell phone was lost, he said.

At about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, deputies and first responders from Monroe and Jones counties got the call someone was stranded on the river.

Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece said Perkins could be seen from the bank, but rescuers had to get to him by boat on that side of the river.

Jones County’s River Rescue and Tactical Team put two vessels in the water at Pope’s Ferry and notified Macon-Bibb County firefighters to be on standby.

Jones rescuers were able to get him to safety in about 15 minutes, Graham said.

Perkins was barefoot and dressed in shorts and a red hoodie.

“He was very pale and showing all the signs of hypothermia,” Graham said. “He was very lethargic.”

The man was taken by ambulance to The Medical Center of Central Georgia.

The incident report states Perkins suffers from Asberger’s syndrome, a type of autism characterized by difficulties in social interaction and other symptoms.

He had been off his medication for weeks, the report stated.

“He didn’t try to communicate with everybody. He was real aloof,” McClure said.

Perkins only spoke when the neighbors called out to him and asked if he needed help, he said.

Being out in the elements since Monday, including rain and sub-freezing temperatures, had taken its toll on Perkins.

“He was a whipped puppy. I”ll tell you that,” McClure said.

The rescue was the third for the Jones RRATT rescuers since a FEMA grant paid for the rescue unit about three years ago, Graham said.

Federal funding paid for the department’s two boats, pickup and gear, he said.

“These boats help out tremendously,” Graham said. “Every one of these were very vital rescues.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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