Columbus crews search Chattahoochee River downtown for man who may have drowned

Tim Chitwood/tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com
·2 min read

About 20 Columbus water rescuers were searching the Chattahoochee River downtown Wednesday for a man witnesses said jumped off the 14th Street Bridge.

Columbus police said they got reports of a man jumping into the river at 10:37 p.m. Tuesday. “His condition, whereabouts, and identity are currently unknown,” the department said in a news release, asking anyone with information to contact Detective William Ragland at 706-225-4056 or wiragland@columbusga.org.

Fire Marshal John Shull said crews with the Columbus Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services initially were dispatched to the river around 11 p.m. Tuesday, after two people reported a man in his late 30s had jumped into the water.

Conditions were too dangerous to send divers in then, because it was dark and the water level was high, Shull said. But searchers scanned the river surface before deciding to come back in the morning, he said.

Battalion Chief Donnie Jones, the on-site commander, said the recovery operation resumed around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday as crews began walking the riverbank looking for a body. Boats were launched again around 7:20 a.m., and divers were on the scene by 8:15, he said.

“We’ve got divers on the river today between the 13th Street Bridge and the Dillingham Bridge, and what we’re doing is we’re hitting different water pockets that have deep holes, and the divers are going in and searching,” Jones said.

They were to be aided that afternoon by officers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, he said.

“After around 1 o’clock today, DNR’s going to put boats out with sonar, and we’re going to sonar the area, and if we come across any hits on it, the divers are going to dive wherever they get a hit at,” he said.

At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the dive crews were ending their search for the day, having found no body. Chief Jones said the department would send boats back later to scan the river, until dark, but would not send out divers again unless searchers found evidence that divers needed to investigate.

If no body’s found Wednesday evening, the search will resume Thursday morning, Jones said.

If a body is recovered, the Muscogee County Coroner will identify the victim and notify the next of kin, authorities said.

Shull said investigators Wednesday also were checking whether security cameras recorded anyone leaping from the bridge Tuesday night, to confirm witnesses’ accounts and help pinpoint the location.