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Search ends in tragedy

Drowning victim's body is recovered

Drowning victim's body is recovered

July 22, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

DOWNSVILLE - After about 20 hours combing the Potomac River off Big Slackwater since a 19-year-old presumably drowned there Wednesday, divers discovered the body of Jason Leon Line Friday afternoon at the bottom of the river, Natural Resources Police Spokesman Sgt. Ken Turner said.

Turner said a cadaver dog indicated it smelled odors from a dead body in the same spot between the Maryland and West Virginia banks where three dogs picked up a similar scent Thursday. At 3:36 p.m., divers plunged 20 feet to the bottom of the river and found Line's body caught in "a crevice or a deep hole" on the floor of the river, he said.

Line "recently received his license as an electrician. He was really anxious to get started. He was very excited about starting the next chapter of his career," said Burt Maggio, spokesman for Line's family.

Maggio said the family would "like to just move forward with their plans for the deceased, and they're glad that the body has been recovered."

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"The family wanted to extend their appreciation to all the agencies, emergency crews, friends and family who came out for the search," Maggio said. "They appreciated all the effort and commitment. They were very fortunate for the level of service provided by the crews."

Turner said Line's body will be sent to the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy. Although the investigation is ongoing, Turner said "we do not suspect foul play."

Line and two others intended to swim from the Maryland banks off Big Slackwater to the West Virginia banks Wednesday about 6:30 p.m., Turner said. When the others - an unidentified young man and woman - made it to the other side, they discovered their friend didn't make it, he said.

Members of the Natural Resources Police, Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co., Washington County Fire and Rescue, dive teams from Jefferson and Berkeley counties, cadaver dogs from three agencies and the National Park Service assisted with the search and scene at Big Slackwater, off Dam No. 4 Road south of Downsville, Turner said.

Only a few family members sat Friday on the Maryland banks of the river, watching over the river. Line's father had asked that only immediate family members be at the ramp Friday, a National Park Service ranger said. Some friends had stopped by, but left not long afterward over the course of the day, he said.

Not long before Line's body was recovered, two Natural Resources Police Boston Whaler boats drifted, searching in opposite directions, one downriver and one combing the West Virginia banks.

A dog was on the bow of one boat, hanging his head over the edge, panting. Its handler stood over him, staring at the murky waters below.

Haze began to settle over the river about 6:15 p.m. as crews loaded Line's body into a van, shielded by two Natural Resources Police trucks.

Staff writer Matthew Umstead contributed to this story.

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