Update: Columbus Fire Department says basketball may have been mistaken as drowning victim

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 13, 2013 

Update (12:08 p.m.):

The Columbus Fire Department's search for a potential drowning victim was cut short Tuesday morning after new evidence suggested a basketball floating in the river may have been mistaken for a man's head.

Assistant Chief Robert Futrell said Tuesday afternoon that Monday night's witness was brought in for questioning Tuesday morning. Although Fire Department representatives initially stated Tuesday morning that the witness saw a man go under the water, the witness confirmed that he did not.

Futrell said the witness recounted that he heard cries for help and saw what looked like a head floating in the river. He later lost sight of the object, but never saw it go under the water.

Later, a Phenix City Police Officer reported that he saw a basketball floating in the river.

"Nobody's been reported missing on either side of the river," Futrell said. "There wasn't enough evidence to go on, so we called the search off."

Futrell also said that Georgia Power stopped generating energy at the dams to aid search efforts. However, water from the rain made the currents strong enough that a dive effort was impossible.

Since January, Futrell said there have been 14 water rescue searches, most resulting from a boater-in-peril or a person stuck on the rocks. No drownings have resulted from these cases.

In August 2012 and early September 2012, five people drowned in the Chattahoochee River.

Krystal Brown, 30, and her 11-month-old son Mister Brown on Aug. 13 after Krystal Brown went into the river after her three-year-old son. That son, David Brown, was flown to a hospital in Atlanta, where he died days later.

Jarvis Willis, 23, died while swimming with two other friends on Aug. 19. His body was found the following day.

Harold Brock, 54, of Greencastle, Ind. died while swimming in the river on Sept. 4. His wife watched him disappear near the Synovus building. He did not resurface for between five and 15 minutes.

Update (9:47 a.m.):

Fire Marshal Ricky Shores told the Ledger-Enquirer that as of 9:30 a.m. the Columbus Fire and EMS and Phenix City Fire Department suspended their search for a potential drowning victim.

Shores said their search was unsuccessful.

Original story: Columbus Fire and EMS and Phenix City Fire Department workers searched for a potential drowning victim near the 13th Street Bridge Monday night, according to the Columbus Fire Department.

Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said Tuesday morning that the Columbus Fire Department received a request from Phenix City Police Department at about 9 p.m. after a witness said they heard a person crying for help in the water near the 13th Street Bridge.

The witness told police they saw a person in the water about 25-feet North of 13th Street Bridge before the person went under and didn't resurface.

Together with Phenix City Fire Department workers, Columbus fire officials searched the area from the Dillingham Street Bridge to the Civic Center for a victim. No one was found.

Fire and EMS workers are unsure how likely it was there was a person in the river. Most successful search operations depend on the accuracy of the witness' story.

"It really depends on the credibility of the report, and how accurate the last sighting was," Shores said. "That's why it's important when people call about a possible drowning, they need to be as sure as they can of where that person went down."

Shores said the Chattahoochee River was at a high-point last night, as two of the three flood gates were open. He said it is unlikely a live victim will be found if anyone was in the river.

Columbus Fire and EMS workers will use boat and land vehicles to resume the search at 8 a.m. More details will be added as they become available.

Whitewater Express is expected to run trips today down the river as scheduled at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., Uptown Columbus Inc. President Richard Bishop said.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service