05/04/09 — Police searching for body of Neuse drowing victim

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Police searching for body of Neuse drowing victim

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 4, 2009 1:46 PM

News-Argus Video Report

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Members of the Arr-Mac Water Response Team and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office Dive Team, along with the Seven Springs Volunteer Fire Department and N.C. Wildlife Resources Department prepare to resume the search for a missing swimmer near the Cliffs of the Neuse this morning. A 21-year-old man apparently drowned while swimming with friends Sunday evening. A state Highway Patrol helicopter also was involved in the search.

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Authorities were still searching this morning for a drowning victim at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.

The search began around 7 p.m. Sunday and lasted into the early morning hours, as cadaver dogs and divers probed the Neuse River for a missing 21-year-old man.

The victim's name had not been released by authorities as of press time this morning.

Seven Springs firefighter Bob Smith said the man for whom rescuers were searching had been playing in the river with a group of friends.

"Apparently he did not know how to swim, and went under," Smith said. "One of the boys attempted to rescue him from the water, but was unsuccessful."

The group of acquaintances, most of whom were about the same age as the victim, gathered in the parking lot of the park, at the end of Park Entrance Road off N.C. 111 South.

The group did not wish to speak to media.

Smith, who is familiar with the operations of the Arr-Mac Water Response Team and the Sheriff's Office Dive Team, described what emergency officials were doing in looking for the 21-year-old.

"They're doing a search grid, beginning at the last known point where he was seen at," the firefighter said late Sunday night.

Dimly lit boats carrying divers and equipment cast themselves off from the muddy banks of the Neuse River on Sunday, at the bottom of a steep walking path that leads to the river.

Around 11 p.m., Rescue workers set up emergency lights near a craggy tree where they wound ropes that aided the divers and boats out in the river.

They had to avoid much of the stream bed, which was deceivingly soft in some areas. Although much of it looked dry and cracked, stepping on the wrong spot instantly covered many of the emergency workers' boots in thick mud.

Conditions continued to improve throughout the evening, as more lights were set up to illuminate the wooded trail.

Green "glow sticks" were dropped along the sloping path, to help emergency workers navigate the steps and wooden planks as they proceeded to the river in the dark.

Capt. Tom Effler said this morning that he was not sure how long the search would last.

Smith said it "would continue, in some respect, until the victim is found."

N.C. State Parks public information officer Charlie Peek said he did not know if the victim's next of kin had been contacted.

"I'm not sure that I've got a name, I'm not sure it's the right name, all I have is a 21-year-old from Goldsboro," Peek said. "We're still very much in the investigative phase of this. We don't have an official report turned in yet."

Peek said the identity of the victim might be released later today.