Body of missing teenage swimmer recovered from New River Gorge


It was a busy day for federal and local emergency personnel, when a search and rescue call on the New River Gorge National River in McCreery, Raleigh County, West Virginia turned fatal.

New River Gorge National River spokesperson, Julena Campbell, said this is common, despite this being the initial incident for 2019.

“This is the first search in the river that we’ve had this year,” Campbell said. “But unfortunately, it’s certainly not the first one that we’ve had here in the park.”

Just after 7 p.m. Friday morning, National Park Service rangers said they received a notification of a missing swimmer. Three juveniles entered the water near the McCreery Boat Launch. One of them, a 16-year-old boy, got caught in the main current and was pushed downstream in high, murky waters. The other two swimmers, who were later accounted for, lost sight of him.

“Each year, we usually have one or two people drown in the river, and so our rangers are specially trained to handle that, to work with the different cooperating associations, like the volunteer fire departments, to search for folks when something goes wrong,” Campbell said.

At around noon, the National Park Service confirmed the boy’s body was found 14 feet underwater at about 200 yards away from where he was last seen.

In addition to the swimmer not wearing a life jacket, Campbell said the extreme flowing nature of the river can also play a role in such water emergencies.

“In reality, the New River is a very strong, very powerful river with many currents, undertows, eddies,” Campbell said. “The bottom of the river can be very rocky and rough. Unfortunately, if someone does get pulled down into that river’s current, they can be carried quite a ways and can sometimes be lodged underneath rocks along the river’s edge or even the river’s bottom.”

Investigators did not release the victim’s name due to them notifying his family and his status as a juvenile. They presumed his cause of death is drowning, as they await official results from a possible autopsy.

12:00 p.m. UPDATE — Julena Campbell with the New River Gorge National River confirmed the body of the missing swimmer has been found. The boy was found at around Noon.

The boy’s body was found 200 yards downstream from where he was last seen. It was located 14-feet beneath the river’s surface. He was not wearing a life jacket.

“I’d like to express our condolences to the family and friends of this young man and our thoughts will remain with them as they work through their grief,” New River Gorge National River Superintendent Lizzie Watts said.
“I also want to extend our appreciation for the swift response of the many local volunteer fire departments and others that came to our aid during a holiday weekend.”

Watts went on to say tragic events such as these should remind everyone the New River is a high-volume river with swift currents, deep holes and a rocky bottom. Most drownings in the New River involve people who didn’t plan on being in the water.

For more tips on water safety while in the park visit the National Park Service website.Water Safety Tips from
The National Park Service

8:45 a.m. UPDATE — Crews are on the scene of a missing swimmer in the area of the McCreery boat launch. That is in the New River Gorge National River on the Raleigh County side.

The call came in at around 7 a.m. There were three boys who were camping in the area and went into the river. Responders with the National Park Service said one of the boys got into the main current and the others lost sight of him. There is no indication he was wearing a life vest. The other two boys were found. The names of the boys are not being released at this time.

National Park Service officials said this is the first missing swimmer requiring a response in 2019. There is a search along the banks of the river downstream. They are alos bringing in boats to search the river. Officials said the water in the New River around the area is murky and high.

The National Park Service is leading the search. They are being assisted by Danese, Mount Hope and Bradley-Prosperity Volunteer Fire Departments as well as the Beaver VFD Dive Team.

TERRY, WV — Multiple crews are responding to a report of a missing swimmer in the New River Gorge National River in Raleigh County.

Officials said a mother called 911 Friday morning stating her 16-year-old son was swimming when he suddenly went missing.

Multiple crews are on scene to find the swimmer including Bradley-Prosperity Fire Department, a Raleigh County dive team, 2 river rescue teams from Fayette County, and the National Park Service.

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