Newnan teen dies in Alabama after swimming accident

by Wes Mayer


Brittany Nicole Cheatham passed away Thursday after a swimming accident at Lake Wedowee.

A Newnan teen passed away in an Alabama hospital Thursday afternoon after a tragic swimming accident at Lake Wedowee.

On Sunday, Aug. 31, Brittany Nicole Cheatham, 17, and a group of friends were visiting the family lake house of her boyfriend, Cole Stephens, at Lake Wedowee. According to Cheatham’s father, Robert, the group had just arrived at the house, and they were only swimming for around 30 minutes when Cheatham told her friends she was feeling dizzy. Shortly after this, Cheatham went underwater and didn’t come back up.

After a minute of not resurfacing, Cole Stephens' older brother ran to the house to get their father, Mark Stephens, and Danny Elliott who are both firefighters with the Milton Fire Department. According to Stephens, 911 was called and he ran down to the lake, and because he had some experience in rescue diving, he was able to organize all of Cheatham’s friends to fan out and search for her in a grid about an arm’s length apart.

At first, nobody was able to find Cheatham, Stephens said, so they widened their search and eventually, one of her friends was able to feel her hair. The group tried several times to swim down to her, but none of them could go that deep. After a few attempts, though, Stephens was able to reach the bottom and bring Cheatham to the surface.

Stephens said he and Elliot immediately began performing CPR, and when emergency medical units arrived, they continued to perform CPR all the way to the nearest hospital. Once there, medical personnel were able to restore Cheatham’s pulse, and she was soon taken by helicopter ambulance to Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham. As of Thursday morning, she was still listed in critical condition, according to Adam Kelley, corporate communications manager with the hospital.

According to Stephens, Cheatham was trying to breathe on her own in the hospital, but she had to be intubated because of all the water in her lungs. She also had a constant pulse after it was restored, and her pupils were reacting to doctors, but her brain was too damaged by the long period of lacking oxygen. While her body seemed to be improving each day, her brain continued to swell, and on Thursday around 3 p.m. Central Time, she passed away.

For more on Cheatham’s life and her huge support group at the hospital, look in Saturday’s print and digital editions of The Newnan Times-Herald.

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