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Updated: 10:04 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009 | Posted: 10:04 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

Teen trying to help others dies in Trion, Ga., flood

By Mary Lou Pickel

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Trion — Teenager Nick Osley and his grandmother, mom and two little brothers to drop a friend off Monday when they came upon a closed and flooded road in this northwest Georgia town, in the shadow of Lookout Mountain.

The two teenage boys saw a Jeep in the water and jumped out of the pick-up truck they were riding in, wondering if anyone was in the vehicle or if they could help. That’s when the current from the nearby Chattooga River swept them away, said Eddie Stroup, an investigator with the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office.

Osley, 14, of Summerville, drowned. His friend, Tyler Gordy, 15, survived.

Residents of Trion mourned Nick, even as they wondered what awaited them as they returned to their flooded apartments Tuesday.

“Material things, you can replace those, but you can’t replace a life,” said Tammy Ford, who fled her downtown Trion apartment with her grandsons as floodwater approached Monday morning.

“My heart goes out to that family,” Ford said.

Water overflowed the 20-foot levee in Trion, flooding the town center, including the police department, school board, city hall, a series of apartments and a neighborhood of two dozen homes known as “Frog Town.”

Sandra Collins heard the police knock on her Trion apartment at dawn. “The told us the water’s coming,” she said.

Collins, 22, and her husband, Jesse, 25, grabbed their three children and ran out the door. The water eventually reached waist high in her apartment and ruin the new cherry wood dining table and chairs her mother-in-law just gave her.

Water continued to overflow the levee for about 12 hours, stopping later Monday afternoon, said Jason Winters, Sole Commissioner of Chattooga County.

“It was just a massive amount of water,” he said.

Winters arrived at the school board early Monday morning to help the school superintendent put personnel papers and filing cabinets on top of desks. But in a matter of 45 minutes the water had overflowed a shorter levee, and a four-block area was inundated.

Winters and others quickly left in water up to their chest.

Police evacuated about 250 to 300 families and 59 people stayed overnight at a nearby Red Cross shelter in Summerville. The shelter fed about 100 people Tuesday who now must start to look for new homes.

It’s not the first time the town flooded. In 1990 the river also overflowed the levee.

What’s strange, residents say, is that during that flood, another man, who had left his car at that same spot in the road where the two teenage boys saw the Jeep, was swept away too.

The road cuts through a large corn field. On Monday Osley and Gordy struggled in the flooded corn field, with water covering eight-foot-high stalks, Stroup said. The current from the overflowing river moved the water quickly, even through the field.

A rescue worker jumped in and swam 20 yards to grab Gordy. Witnesses said Osley bobbed up and down and wasn’t seen again.

After an all night search, with boats and bright lights, rescuers found Osley Tuesday morning, when the water had receded, about 60 feet from where he had left the road, Winters said.

“The guys did everything they could,” Winters said.

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