UPDATE: Coroner IDs man found in Chattahoochee River on Sunday

benw@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 27, 2013 

A man found in the Chattahoochee River Sunday was identified today as John Talmadge Attaway, the coroner said.

Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said a cause of death has not been determined for Attaway but no visible injuries were found. His body had been in the water since Aug. 12, the night the Columbus Department of Fire & Emergency Medical Services launched a search for a possible drowning victim but only found a basketball.

Attaway, 44, was found near the boat dock in Rotary Park off of Victory Drive. He was identified by a relative from visible tattoos on his chest and back, the coroner said.

Attaway was homeless and may have been staying in his vehicle, which was found in Phenix City, the coroner said.

Robert Futrell, assistant chief of Columbus Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said it’s hard to state that the man found Sunday is the possible victim they were searching for that Monday night.

Rescue personnel were called about 9:20 p.m. after a witness heard a person crying for help in the river near the 13th Street Bridge and “Cut Bait” on the whitewater course. Rescue personnel searched in boats for about three hours before calling off the search later that evening.

The search continued at dawn the next morning. Futrell noted the river was higher than normal from recent rains and Georgia Power couldn’t continue to hold the flow of the river. “People don’t understand how dangerous it is,” Futrell said of the raging river after recent rains.

No one ever saw a person in the river. After talking with the witness again, Futrell said no other part of a person’s body was seen in the water. “All I saw was what I think was a head,” Futrell said of the witness. “A police officer saw the basketball.”

Rescue personnel spent six to eight hours over the two days searching the river before halting the rescue.

Attaway’s locked vehicle was found near the river in Phenix City.

A relative of Attaway declined to comment late Tuesday on the death.

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