Rescue workers spent nearly 12 hours on the Chattahoochee River Monday looking for the body of a 4-year-old boy who likely drowned a week ago while he and his father were fishing from the bank.
Columbus Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources suspended the search after 8 p.m. when darkness no longer made it safe to work the isolated area of the river north of J.R. Allen Parkway and just south of the Oliver Dam.
The search entered its sixth day with an expectation it could soon end. On Sunday, the body of 27-year-old James Rabon of Bonneau, S.C., was recovered shortly after noon when it was spotted from the air by search personnel in a helicopter.
Workers will be back on the river Tuesday morning.
Favorable weather conditions and the fact that the Georgia Power Company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have worked to lower water levels in the stretch of the river just below the Oliver Dam are the reasons for the optimism, Watson said.
“We got water at the lowest level we have seen and they are telling us they can hold that water all day,” Columbus Fire and EMS Battalion Chief Bryan Watson said of Monday’s conditions before lunch.
“Hopefully that will give us a full day to be able to get into some areas that we have not been able to get into thus far.”
There are nearly 30 rescue personnel from multiple agencies, including the Columbus Fire & EMS, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Columbus police and others working Monday morning.
There were eight Columbus Fire & EMS divers in the water, the most they have had at any time since the search and rescue operation began. There were two boats equipped with sonar.
The DNR helicopter flew for about three hours during midday.
“We got every resource available to us deployed today,” Watson said.
A team of Atlanta search dogs trained to locate bodies were also working on the water Monday, Watson said.
“The divers are diving on any targets we have with either the sonar or the K-9s,” Watson said.
There were about 10 such hits that divers explored to no avail, Watson said.
The search crews are concentrating efforts in a 200-yard radius of where the father’s body was found, Watson said. The area is rocky with a lot of debris.
Using the spotter from the sky, search personnel ruled out a number of areas and continued to focus the search. Watson was confident that boy remains in what is known as Bibb Pond, an area between the Oliver Dam and the North Highland Dam. The river between those dams at Bibb City swells to create what could be a small lake.
The father and son were fishing near a wooded area about 250 yards below the Oliver Dam and just north of J.R. Allen Parkway when witnesses reported seeing the boy fall in the river and the father go in after him after 6 p.m. Wednesday, Watson said previously. There was an unsuccessful attempt by the witnesses to rescue the father and son.