2 men who tried to save child in Suwannee River are missing


Dive team members Deputy Clint Dicks, left, and Cpl. Don Meyer prepare equipment Tuesday morning to aid in the search for the two men who were lost trying to rescue a child in the Suwannee River. (Submitted photo)

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 2:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 2:40 p.m.

As darkness fell over Gilchrist County Monday, officials said, two young men dove into the swollen Suwannee River to save an 8-year-old boy who was thrashing in the water.

The pair of would-be rescuers soon were in trouble themselves, according to a report, as the swift current carried them downstream.

At that point, two other people who happened to be along this remote section of the river jumped in to help. They managed to get to the boy, who was near the shoreline, but the two men were swept away, officials said.

Deputies, divers and officers from multiple agencies have been searching the river for more than 14 hours for any sign of the men.

As of Tuesday evening, they have not been found, according to Sgt. Ed Seifert, public information officer for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, which sent multiple divers to help in the search.

The names and hometowns of the people involved have not been released.

Gilchrist County Sheriff's officials could not be reached for comment, but Seifert gave the following account.

He said that around 8 p.m., Gilchrist deputies arrived at the remote area of Log Landing Wildlife Management Area near not far from Rock Bluff in response to a call about a possible drowning.

The boy had been playing with a remote-controlled boat by the river, he said, when he got in distress in the water.

The two young men, who Seifert said are members of the boy's family, went in to save him.

The men “were not strong swimmers,'' Seifert said, and they became overwhelmed in the fast-moving current in the middle of the river, which is at flood stage and where temperatures are around 65 degrees.

Two people who were not part of the same group as the boy then jumped into the river and rescued the boy, but they could not get to the two men.

The Columbia sheriff's dive team responded to a request to help Gilchrist deputies around 11 p.m., Seifert said, and searched overnight through the rain and cold until around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent several boats and crews to the river to assist the GCSO. The Dixie County Sheriff's Office also is involved in the search.

The deputies and game officers will continue to monitor the Suwannee River for any sign of the two victims, with the assistance of an FWC aviation.

“We're still hopeful that maybe we can find them clinging to a bush down river,'' Seifert said. “We want to give the families some closure.''

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