Two close friends in Dawson County have lost their lives in what officials are calling a drowning accident.
The bodies of Mason Cox and David Wood were found approximately 30 yards from each other in Lake Lanier late Friday afternoon, Jan. 10. The young men, both 20 years old, were last seen at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, when they decided to go night-fishing.
After several days of below-freezing temperatures, officials in the investigation finally were able to get on the water Friday.
The weather broke for us today (Friday), which allowed boats to get out after a few days of ice, Dawson County Sheriffs Office Maj. Tony Wooten said. We were able to recover both bodies, one at 5:30(p.m.) and the second at 5:45 (p.m.). We believe one to be David Wood and the other Mason Cox, both missing from Dawsonville.
The identifications later were confirmed.
On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Sherry Lang said the deaths are being ruled an accident, and the cause is drowning compounded with hypothermia.
Cpl. Adam Loudermilk with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement said the water temperature was approximately 37 degrees on Jan. 3.
They were in 15 to 20 feet of water and both were about 30 yards from the edge of the docks, he said. The friends often went fishing off a dock near their Frederick Cove subdivision.
DNR used sonar equipment and new video-ray underwater cameras to help locate the missing men. Dive teams from Hall County recovered the bodies.
Preliminary investigations showed no signs of trauma. Both men were fully clothed.
According to Dawson County physician Dr. Larry Anderson, when a person suffers from hypothermia, body heat is rapidly lost, causing all systems to shut down. It can take seconds for hypothermia to set in, depending on the temperature of the water and the condition of the person that fell into the water.
While the deaths have been ruled accidental, routine toxicology reports have been ordered by GBI investigators.
Ethelyn Geiger, Woods mother, said she believed the deaths were a tragic accident. Those boys would have done whatever it took to save each other, she said. They died heroes.
Cody Cox said his brother, Mason, was pursuing training to be a firefighter.
He didnt care about being a big shot, he said. He just wanted to be a hero to somebody.
Cody said Mason should be remembered for his strong-hearted attitude. He always stands by his own morals. ... He wouldnt give into peer pressure.
And he said Mason and David were going to be lifelong friends.
They had that friendship where theyd be lifelong friends, he said. If this hadnt happened, theyd be friends for a lifetime.
Geiger said her son, David, touched many lives in the community with his fun-loving and kind personality. He would do anything for anybody, she said. He was warm, compassionate and loved life. He was the type of guy whod give you the shirt off his back.
One of Davids passions was wrestling. Dawson County High School wrestling coach Arron Haynes said David was a natural leader on the team. He was a team captain, he said, and the kids would follow him anywhere. Haynes said David was very tenacious and an enforcer on the team. He was my kind of wrestler, he said.
Both men had clear plans for starting out the new year. Mason had set out to start firefighter training, and David was enrolled at ITT Technical Institute, studying draft design.
David leaves behind a 20-month-old son, Carter. Geiger said they will ensure Davids memory is not lost for his son.
Cody said although he is almost two years older than Mason, his younger brother was a strong influence on his life. Im so proud of Mason; he would always try to convince me to do better.
Cody said it didnt take much to make his brother happy. Mason was very content with what he had. Hed rather stay home with my dad and cook wings on a Saturday night (than go out).
Cody said his brother lived in the present. He didnt really care about money or anything like that. He just always looked for the fun out of life.
A vigil was held Sunday nightto honor the young mens memory. It was standing-room-only, Geiger said.
During the search, a Facebook group was started called Help Find Mason Cox and David Wood. Nearly 12,000 people joined the group, and hundreds had posted comments, offering prayers and support for the families.
For information on services for David and Mason, see page 9A of the Dawson News & Advertiser.