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Unsafe conditions delay search for man feared drowned

June 18, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The search for the body of a man believed to have drowned in Antietam Creek on Sunday was on hold Tuesday because water conditions were unsafe for underwater searching, authorities said.

Police planned to resume searching the area near the Creekside Inn on Security Road today in case Mark Alan Fry's body has surfaced, said Sgt. Mark Knight of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, who is coordinating the search efforts.

The search will not include divers due to swift water in the creek, Knight said.

"We can't turn a recovery of a body into another rescue," Knight said.

Police said Fry, 35, of Robinwood Drive in Hagerstown, was swimming Sunday with a woman who police identified as Sherry Swiger, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She made it back to shore but Fry never surfaced.

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Police helicopters searched from the air Sunday night and Monday morning.

On Monday afternoon, Washington County Underwater Rescue/Recovery Team leader Bill Garcia called off diving efforts after he entered the creek and found it unsafe for divers.

Shoreline searches were difficult from land because of dense brush near the creek, officials said. Department of Natural Resources police took a boat up the creek Monday, but that search was unsuccessful.

Knight said Fry's mother and brother have been in contact with the Sheriff's Department and are anxious to find him, but have been understanding about the conditions.

The banks of Antietam Creek were quiet Tuesday, with no recovery efforts evident.

Knight said because the search had been downgraded to a recovery effort, not as many people or as much special equipment was available.

The Sheriff's Department does not have its own boat or dive team, and must rely on outside agencies.

"They just can't drop what they're doing ... They have priorities," Knight said.

Knight said he was working to coordinate about a dozen recruits in the Western Maryland Police Academy and a Department of Natural Resources Police boat search team.

"Hopefully ... we can get things going ... and hopefully we can put these things to an end quickly," Knight said.

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