Police identify body found near Niagara Dam as man who fell into Roanoke River in December 2020

Roanoke Valley News

Crews searched for a person swept away in the Roanoke River on Dec. 5, 2020.

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Authorities confirmed to WFXR News that the man found dead near Roanoke County’s Niagara Dam in late January 2021 was the same man who fell into the Roanoke River and was swept away in early December 2020.

According to the Roanoke County Police Department, the body was first discovered in the water near Niagara Dam — which is southeast of Vinton near Shelbourne Avenue — at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 26.

The department announced on Wednesday, Feb. 24 that the Medical Examiner’s Office identified the body as Dolph Edward Dellinger, a man missing out of Roanoke City.

Then, on Thursday, Feb. 25, the Roanoke City Police Department confirmed to WFXR News that Dellinger was the same man who fell into the Roanoke River shortly before 6 p.m. on Dec. 5, 2020, prompting a days-long search effort from multiple fire and EMS departments, including swift-water rescue teams, dogs, and drones.

On the night of the incident, officials said a 911 caller reported a person was pushing a shopping cart through swift water beside the Ramada Inn along Franklin Street, fell into the river, and was swept away.

“He pushing the grocery cart across the river, and I tell him to get out of the water and he just kept on going in and he hit the bank in the water. He’d haul it in. The water has pushed him on,” said Randy Lee Scaggs, who said he was Dellinger’s friend.

“Swift water can sweep you off your feet within a few inches. And a lot of people think, you know, it’ll be easy. It’s only up to my knees, but that’s what can take you out and take you down the river,” said Kristen Perdue with Roanoke Fire-EMS.

Because of high water levels and wind speed concerns, search efforts in the river and on land kept being suspended in the days after Dellinger fell into the river.

Nearly two months later, Dellinger’s body was found approximately six miles downstream near the Niagara Dam in Roanoke County.

The medical examiner’s office told WFXR News on Thursday that Dellinger’s death was from an accidental drowning.

Police say they have exhausted all attempts to locate and notify Dellinger’s next of kin from outside the state.

The Roanoke City Police Department will now handle any investigation into the nature of how Dellinger entered the river, according to officials.

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