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Body of Va. man recovered from Shenandoah River

July 05, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Shannondale Springs Road in Jefferson County, W.Va., was closed Friday as authorities continued the search for a Winchester, Va., man who was missing in the Shenandoah River.
By Dan Dearth/Reporter

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — The body of a Winchester, Va., man who drowned Thursday in the Shenandoah River was found Friday afternoon after an extensive search by personnel from four states, police said.

Josue Menendez, 30, was found about 120 feet from the river bank at the Shannondale Springs public access area, where friends and family members had gathered Thursday, Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty said.

The cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning, according to Jefferson County Medical Examiner Donald Shirley.

Menendez was found about 50 to 75 feet from where he last was seen alive, Dougherty said.

Witnesses said Menendez was facing the river bank, apparently showing those he was with how deep the water was, when he apparently slipped off an underwater rock shelf and fell backwards into deeper water, according to Dougherty and Shirley.

Silt makes the rock on the river bottom slippery, and the Shenandoah, like a lot of rivers, has many deep holes, Dougherty said. Menendez had been walking in a shallow area of the river, Dougherty said.

Menendez resurfaced once before he disappeared, Dougherty said. Based on witness statements, either Menendez was unable to swim or did not swim very well, and those who were with him also were not good swimmers, Dougherty said. They did not have any boats, he said.

The incident was reported Thursday at 6:14 p.m., a Jefferson County emergency communications dispatcher said.

Rescue personnel from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania responded Thursday night to help with the search, which continued until dark, Dougherty said.

The search resumed Friday about 8 a.m., Dougherty said.

The body was recovered Friday at about 3:15 p.m., just as divers from Carlisle, Pa., were getting to the water, Dougherty said.

While weather conditions were good, the search proved challenging because the water there is not particularly clear, Dougherty said.

Before Menendez was found, divers likely were within a few feet of finding the body after cadaver dogs identified the general area where the victim disappeared, Dougherty said.

Kim Sencindiver, president of the EVAK K9 Search and Rescue Team, said she was pleased that the cadaver dogs worked so well to focus the search area given the challenges the divers faced.

“They literally have to search very small areas in 3D, from the river bed to the surface to ensure they don’t miss the victim,” Sencindiver said. “It is labor-intensive and exhausting work, which is why the use of the search dogs is so vital in these instances.”

In addition to crews on the ground and in the water, a helicopter flew over the river in search of the body, but was unable to find Menendez, Dougherty said.

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The search effort included personnel from Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, Bakerton Fire Department, Citizens Fire Co., Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (boat), Frederick County, Md. (water rescue team), Potomac Valley Fire Co. (two boats), John H. Enders Fire Co. & Rescue in Berryville, Va., Berkeley County Deputy Reserve (divers), Maryland State Police (aviation support), Loudoun County (Va.) Sheriff’s Department (dive team), Carroll County, Md. (dive team) and Carlisle, Pa. (water rescue team), according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Potomac River rescue

Earlier Thursday, an injured person was rescued from a rock in the Potomac River in Frederick County, Md., a Washington County 911 dispatcher said.

That incident was reported at 4:35 p.m., officials said.

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