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County employees legacy lives on
Warren Hall Project
Flotation devices in honor of Warren Hall have been installed at Henderson and Hendrix parks. Hall, a former county employee, drowned at Henderson Park last November trying to rescue a girl and her dog from the lake next to the county building. - photo by Ted O'Neil

Even in death, Warren Hall is there to save others.

Several flotation devices in his honor now dot the banks of the lake near Henderson Park where he drowned trying to rescue a girl and her dog last November, as well as the ponds at Hendrix Park in Ellabell.

Bryan County Emergency Services recently installed the emergency flotation devices on posts with signs reading “Warren Hall Project.” One is located almost in the exact spot where Hall went into the water last Nov. 20, while two more are on opposite sides of the larger part of the lake closer to the tennis courts.

Bryan County Emergency Services Deputy Chief Michael Dick said the department already had been in the planning stages of conducting water rescue and dive training as well as search and rescue boat training. As part of those initiatives, officials were considering placing rescue floats, rings or cans in high foot-traffic areas around the bodies of water. When Hall, of Pembroke, lost his life, BCES decided to go ahead with the flotation devices and dedicate the program to him.

“Prevention is equally as important — or even more so — than training our responders to react to such an incident,” Dick said. “The rescue floats are designed to be in place as safety device used by anyone in the area. The idea is to ‘reach,’ ‘throw’ and only then ‘go’ if you are a good swimmer. Anybody should be able to grab the device and use the strap to toss the float to a person in need. If that fails or they are too far out, then they could throw the device or strap the device around their shoulder and swim to the person in need, but swimming to conduct a rescue by untrained personnel is the last choice.”

Hall’s family said after his death that he was a strong swimmer, knowing enough to remove his boots and jacket before entering the water the day he died, but officials believe water temperature played a role in his drowning.

Rob Lanoue, owner of the Scooba Shack, was one of the divers who helped recover Hall’s body.

“The water temperature was in the 50s, and you’ve got about 10 minutes before your muscles start cramping,” he said.

According to information pieced together through interviews at the time, Hall, 36, was working by the lake trimming weeds on the day the incident occurred. He had just recently been hired full-time by the Bryan County Parks and Recreation Department.

A girl had jumped into the water to save her dog and her mother began yelling for help. Hall removed his work boots and put down the weed whacker he was using before going into the water to save the girl and her dog.

Margaret Stolzoff said she and a friend, Sarah McLaughlin, had been at a nearby park with their children when she drove by the lake and heard screaming.

“The mother was screaming and then I saw the girl and the dog in the water and thought it was odd because no one swims there,” Stolzoff said at the time. “I stopped and ran over to help and after he (Hall) helped the girl and the dog get out, he turned and started swimming back toward the other side.”

Stolzoff said the woman kept screaming and by the time she turned around, Hall had disappeared.

“I jumped in the water and went to where he was but I couldn’t find him,” she said. “He just went down like he got pulled under or something. He wasn’t flailing around. It was eerily calm.”

Stolzoff said Hall was a “strong swimmer” from what she observed.

“It was less than 60 seconds by the time I got to where he had been and I kept feeling around for him but … nothing,” she added, fighting back tears. “It’s so deep there I couldn’t even touch the bottom.”

Signs also have been installed to warn residents and visitors that drowning conditions are present in the area and precautions should be taken. The 15 rescue floats, which normally cost $300 each, were donated by Wyatt Werneth of the Florida-based Drown Zero program.

“Wyatt is a friend of mine and we have been working together in different water and dive rescue educational programs for some time,” Dick said. “The idea about the security of the floats is simple. This is Bryan County; these floats are for the people of Bryan County and we would hope that they treat them as needed emergency devices and not toys.”

Dick said BCES hopes to place more at public locations, such as fishing piers and boat ramps, in the near future.

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