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Birthday celebration was near for man who drowned

June 14, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A Thurmont, Md., man whose body was recovered Thursday morning from the Potomac River would have celebrated his 40th birthday Sunday, according to a neighbor at the summer resort area of Riverbend Park in West Virginia.

"I understand his wife had bought him a new boat," said Virginia Sellers, whose trailer home fronts the river near where Wayne Edward Kerns' body was found by divers around 9 a.m. Thursday.

Kerns had been feared drowned near an area known as Two Locks on the Maryland side after witnesses saw him fall from a boat Wednesday. Divers, boats and helicopters had searched unsuccessfully for the missing boater Wednesday.

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Brian Sellers said his first inkling that there was a problem came Wednesday morning when his brother-in-law told him a boat had been seen going down the river.

"I went out in my boat and I couldn't find anybody but I did find a boat," he said.

Sellers' boat became a floating command post for divers Wednesday as they searched unsuccessfully more than six hours for Kerns' body.

"We went out on my boat again Thursday morning and that's when they found him in about 9 feet of water," Brian Sellers said. "They brought him up and put him in another boat."

Maryland Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Heather Lynch confirmed the body was found near Dam No. 5 about two hours after the search resumed at 7 a.m. Search crews waited for the medical examiner to arrive at the river so the body could be taken to Baltimore for an autopsy, she said.

Kerns' family members had maintained a vigil during Wednesday's search and were at the scene Thursday morning.

Calls to the Kerns' family at their Thurmont home weren't returned Thursday. No telephone number was listed for the family's summer residence in West Virginia.

Lynch said a personal flotation device was recovered in the boat.

Brian Sellers said he has been on the river for 20 years and he knows how dangerous it can be.

"This is the Potomac ... it can take you," he said.

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