Update: Phenix City Police find car, wallet of man pulled out of Chattahoochee River

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 25, 2013 

Update (3:21 P.M. Tuesday)

A man found in the Chattahoochee River Sunday was identified today as John Taomandge Attaway, the coroner said. Learn more here.

Update (6:48 a.m. Tuesday)

The Muscogee County Coroner's Office said Tuesday morning that a preliminary identification for the man pulled out of the Chattahoochee River Sunday was developed recently after Phenix City Police found the man's car near the 13th Street Bridge.

Coroner Buddy Bryan said police found the 44-year-old Columbus man's car and wallet near the 13th Street Bridge, two weeks after the victim is thought to have drowned.

When the body was first pulled out of the river, it was in such a decayed state that authorities could not tell if he is black or white. With the new information, Bryan said officials have determined the man was white and most likely homeless.

Bryan said the name of the victim will most likely be released after the victim's mother has a chance to reaffirm that the body matches the suspected identity. The mother will have to use the man's tattoos, as they are one of the only remaining features on the body that are recognizable.

Original story

Columbus Fire & EMS Water Rescue pulled a man's body out of the Chattahoochee River Sunday afternoon.

Chief Deputy Coroner Freeman Worley said law enforcement received a call shortly after noon. Worley, on the scene at the boat dock in Rotary Park off of Victory Drive, pronounced the man dead at 2:10 p.m.

Worley could not give a cause of death.

He said the body is being sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy and identification.

Worley said the body was in such poor condition that he could not determine whether the man was white or black.

He said the body may have been in the water for a week or two. It was discovered when it got caught up in some bushes.

Worley said the man was wearing a blue pullover shirt and some shorts. He could not tell if they were swimming trunks.

Columbus police could not give any more details.

It is unclear at this time if there is any connection between this incident and the potential drowning victim from Aug. 12, when a crew spent the night and part of the next morning searching the river after a witness told officials they saw something go under the water.

The Columbus Fire Department discontinued its search in the morning after new evidence suggested the witness may have mistaken a basketball floating in the river as a man's head.

Assistant Chief Robert Futrell said Aug. 13 that 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."

This same time last year five people drowned in the Chattahoochee River.

Krystal Brown, 30, went into the river with her 11-month-old son, Mister Brown, on Aug. 13, 2012, after her three-year-old son, David Brown, fell into the water. Krystal and Mister Brown drowned. David Brown was rescued and flown to a hospital in Atlanta, where he died days later.

Jarvis Willis, 23, died while swimming with two other friends Aug. 19, 2012. His body was found the following day.

Harold Brock, 54, of Greencastle, Ind., died while swimming in the river on Sept. 4, 2012. His wife watched him disappear near the Synovus building.

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