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Officials fear man drowned


Thursday, July 12, 2001

RUSSELL, Ky. – Rescuers will turn their efforts today toward the recovery of a Lawrence County man’s body presumed drowned in the Ohio River.

"We’re going to look today but it’s no longer a rescue now, it’s a recovery operation," Russell police chief Phillip Caskey said this morning.

Names of the victim and his brother, who was rescued from the river, were not released.

"I still don’t know if the next of kin have been notified," Caskey said.

It’s believed the victim lived in Coal Grove, the chief said.

Bystanders on the Kentucky shore in Russell apparently reported two men struggling in the river just before 1 p.m. Tuesday. Russell and Flatwoods police officers, Kentucky firefighters and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife responded.

Russell firefighter Mike Lacks tried to swim out and save one man, but could not get close enough in time, Caskey said. He and a couple launching a boat from the Ironton ramp pulled the man’s brother out of the water. He was treated and released at a local hospital.

"The only thing the brother was able to tell us is they were boating and had docked up above the (Ironton-Russell) bridge a little bit," Caskey said.

According to his brother, the victim said he wanted to jump in and cool off, the chief said.

"His brother turned around to do something, and when he looked back he saw his brother several yards downriver, and he was indicating he needed help," Caskey said.

The brother jumped in to help but also had trouble with the river’s swift current, Caskey said.

Tuesday, the river current was faster than normal, probably because the Greenup, Ky., dam was drawing water out, anticipating lots of water from the West Virginia flooding, the chief added.

Police, firefighters, fish and wildlife officials searched throughout the day Tuesday. The Kentucky State Police assisted in the search with helicopter flyovers. Ironton police remained on standby during the rescue and search, dispatchers said.

Searches resumed Wednesday but the victim was not recovered. Authorities expect to begin today’s search shortly after noon, possibly using a special canine unit, Caskey said.