Still no sign of 2 men missing in Suwannee River


Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:50 p.m.

The search for two men who jumped into the Suwannee River trying to save a boy ended its first week on Sunday with no sign of the missing men.

Rescuers from several agencies continued to look for Al Melendez, 39, and Haemant Nathooram, 19, who were swept away Monday evening by the current, said Gilchrist County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Manning.

“We're trying to do as much searching as we can,” he said.

The family of the men continue to hold out hope that they can be rescued, Manning said.

“They're constantly calling to check if there are any updates on their family members,” he said. “They haven't given up hope yet.”

By the water's edge, near a tree, he said family members have placed candles and flowers.

Members of the Gilchrist, Dixie and Columbia County sheriff's offices and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have looked for Melendez and Nathooram at water level and in the air. Aerial searches have gone all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, officials have said.

The men, both of Gilchrist County, were trying to save Melendez's 8-year-old son, who fell into the river while playing with a remote-controlled boat.

Two other people at Log Landing in Gilchrist County pulled the boy from a shallow area of the river, but Melendez and Nathooram were swept away by the strong current farther out in the flood-swollen river.

Family members said Melendez was trying to save Nathooram, who could not swim.

The current in the Suwannee River is too dangerous and difficult at this time for volunteer searches, Manning said. After next week, the authorities will re-evaluate their search plan and continue to do spot checks and sporadic searching.

With the cold temperature of the water, speed of the current and length of time the men have been in the water, the likelihood of them being alive is little. The search team just wants to give the family some type of closure, Manning said.

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