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Divers recover body from river

July 03, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART and KIM YAKOWSKI

marlob@herald-mail.com

kimy@herald-mail.com

A search of the Potomac River for a Martinsburg, W.Va., man missing since late Sunday ended at 12:35 p.m. Tuesday when his body was found about 150 feet from shore, said the head of a Maryland State Police Underwater Recovery team.

After searching all day Monday, about 12 divers went back into the river at 11 a.m. Tuesday and found Darrick Michael Knipe's body an hour and a half after expanding their search pattern, Sgt. Otto Artfitch said.

Knipe appeared to have been hit by a boat and been severely injured, said Artfitch, who has been a rescue/recovery diver for 33 years.

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Knipe, 24, who lived at 1741 Nipetown Road, went into the river late Sunday near Dam No. 4 Road when he and some friends were approached by C&O Canal park rangers who were checking on reports of people in the area being loud.

Artfitch said Knipe's body will be taken to the Office of the Maryland State Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will handle the investigation because it is now considered a boating accident, state police said.

Four state police divers, two DNR divers and six divers from the Washington County Underwater Rescue/Recovery Team participated in the search, Artfitch said.

As divers searched the river bottom Monday, Knipe's family waited along the bank.

The Knipe family shared a feeling of hope Monday, but that began to fade as the day wore on. On Tuesday, they were together when they got the news of the discovery of Knipe's body.

"It was a relief that he was found but it's still very hard," said Pam Knipe, an aunt who adopted Darrick Knipe when he was 3. "His mother and I are sisters ... not real close but we are together through this."

Pam Knipe said Darrick Knipe was still single and lived at home with her. He had just started a new job with a welding company last week and was enjoying his work.

"Darrick was a good swimmer ... in fact he swam across the river once before on Sunday," Pam Knipe said. "I think it was a combination of it being dark and, of course, getting hit by a boat."

She said the family is missing Knipe and will remember him as a young man who enjoyed life and had lots of friends.

Martin Gallery, a ranger with C&O Canal Park, said that around 10 or 10:30 p.m. Sunday, he and another ranger went to the area near McMahon's Mill along the river because a group of people was being loud. The area is near Downsville and upriver from Dam No. 4.

There were about seven people hanging around. Some of them were juveniles and some had alcoholic beverages, Gallery said.

Gallery said they escorted the people to their vehicles and were going to check to see if any of them were wanted by police.

A check with Hagerstown City Police revealed there was an outstanding 1999 warrant for Darrick Knipe for violation of probation on the traffic offenses of fleeing and eluding and driving while intoxicated, Detective Shane Blankenship said.

If picked up on that warrant, Knipe would have had to post $250 bond to be released, Blankenship said.

Knipe disappeared from the group, and when the rangers asked the other people where Knipe had gone, they said they did not know. Thinking Knipe had left the area, the rangers stopped looking for him, Gallery said.

At 5 a.m. Monday, some of the people who were with Knipe went to the state police barrack in Hagerstown to report Knipe missing.

Artfitch said those people who said they saw Knipe go into the river also heard a boat go by and believed the boat may have struck Knipe.

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