HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. - An Atlanta firefighter died suddenly Sunday after drowning in a state park.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Tavaris Slade, 38, was rescued from the water and given CPR, but he did not survive.
Slade was a firefighter who had been with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department for six years, according to a post on the Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters Facebook page.
"He was a loving and devoted father to a young son," the post reads. "He demonstrated his love of life by being a successful health and fitness instructor. A true professional; he will be missed in our stations and on the rig."
A spokesperson for Atlanta Fire declined to immediately comment on what happened.
A witness said Slade appeared to be on a trip with other families.
"I think they were there on some kind of scout or youth trip," said Sarah Francis. "It was just a group of fathers with their sons, you know, and who knew that their day was [going to] turn out like that."
A DNR spokesperson said Slade had gone down the sliding rock at the bottom of the gorge to help a child who was not a strong swimmer.
"It's really slippery and there's a rope in the water that you grab onto and the father fell and hit his head and went under water, but he came back up and yelled for help. And my son was able to help the son onto the bank and pulled him to safety. And we just heard everybody start screaming, 'Call 911! Call 911!' So, I called 911 and stayed on the phone with them until the first responders got there," Francis recalled.
Slade was critically injured on the job in 2015. He was on board an Atlanta Fire engine on the way to a call when it crashed into a tree. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken foot, and two fractured vertebrae.
After the accident, Slade told FOX 5 that he was not afraid to return to serving the community.
"To know that you came out of that situation, just to be alive. So, I'm thankful and blessed," he said.