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Swimmer remains missing

July 20, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

DOWNSVILLE - Rescuers searched for a missing swimmer for more than an hour Wednesday night in the Potomac River near the area of Dam No. 4 before calling off the search just before 9 p.m.

"We were dispatched for an individual in the waterway. Three individuals were supposedly in the water. Two came out, one did not," said John Bentley, chief of Washington County's special operations unit.

A surface search will continue this morning for the missing person, described as a "younger gentleman." Officials said they also plan an underwater search.

Josh Anders called 911 at 6:39 p.m. Wednesday after he saw a man in the river calling for help.

"He said, 'Oh, God.' He put his head in his hands," Anders said.

A woman was also in the river and she looked "shocked," said Aaron Leggett, who was with Anders at the time.

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Rescuers used two rescue boats and borrowed two boats from civilians to help with the search, Bentley said.

Approximately a half-mile of the river was searched, said Brian Lowman, deputy chief of Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service.

The search was called off at dark due to safety concerns, Bentley said.

"Due to visibility, due to light ... individuals on the boats do not have a well-lit area," he said.

Rescuers used grappling hooks to search the water in the hopes that they could pull the missing swimmer into the boat, said Dan Garnand of the special operations unit.

"We concentrated on the area where he was last seen," Garnand said.

The spot in the river where the trio was swimming was "very deep" and there were few places where rescuers could actually feel the bottom, Garnand said.

Along the river banks, it was "very muddy, very silty," he said.

Bentley said that rescuers saw no movement in the water.

Williamsport fire and ambulance personnel, special operations and the Department of Natural Resources will participate in today's search operation, said Fred Cole, deputy chief of Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co.

The trio of swimmers apparently swam from the Maryland side of the river to the West Virginia side of the river, where there was a rope swing, said Leggett, who had been putting in his boat when he and Anders heard the cries for help.

Leggett said the man had last been seen about 250 yards down from the boat ramp, on the opposite side of the river.

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