The 17-year-old rescued from High Falls State Park after his younger brother died, Tuesday, is sharing his story of survival.
James Burdette contacted 11Alive to say that he wanted to share his side of the story of what happened. So he returned to the state park where he says he and his 12-year-old brother Christian often swam.
"I mean, we do this all the time," Burdette explained 11Alive's Ryan Kruger. "We don't think twice about it."
Burdette said he and his brother Christian were regulars at the 1,050-acre park is located northwest of Macon.
When they went there on Tuesday, he and his brother entered the water through a little-used trail off of High Falls Road, one that guests don't often take. Unlike the other trail, there is one warning sign, telling visitors that swimming is prohibited, but Burdette says he and Christian usually blow off the cautions.
They went to the water like they often did, but the current that day, according to Burdette, was rougher than he was used to seeing due to recent heavy rains.
Burdette said he and his younger brother started in a calmer section of water, then walked toward the rapids. Contrary to earlier reports from safety officials, Burdette says he and Christian never fell. Instead, he says his younger brother stepped off a rock into deep water.
"(Christian) took a step and just went in," Burdett said. He dove in to grab him by the arm, but that's when Burdette said his younger brother told him then, "I'm going to die."
"And I said, 'No, you're not buddy,'" the 17-year-old recalled. "And it wasn't like, scared, or nervous. It was just, 'I'm about to die.'"
The 17-year-old says the raging waters then swept over him and he lost hold of his younger brother.
"I'm trying to swim up," Burdette said. "Finally, I found something and pulled myself up." But by this point, his younger brother was nowhere to be found.
Burdette, who has taken classes in emergency response, knew crews would have to act fast to rescue his brother.
"I was on this little rock and I was realizing what's going on. That's when I really started to panic, because (Christian) is under water, he has to be. I couldn't see him. And it just ripped me apart."
After the accident, a friend of the two went to the scene to pay his respects. He told 11Alive's Ron Jones that it was tough to comprehend.
"I was just hanging out with them 48 hours ago, playing basketball, having the time of our life on fall break," said Austin Steward, a friend of the two. "To hear this on the news, and he's dead, it's horrific how life can suddenly be taken from you."
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