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Contact: Julena Campbell, 304-640-0724
Glen Jean, WV –Search and rescue personnel located the body of 51-year old Joe Bennett from Mabscott, West Virginia shortly after 1 pm today. National Park Service rangers, personnel from West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and volunteer search and rescue divers from three counties have been searching for Bennett since Thursday afternoon when the boat he was fishing from capsized in the New River.
"We'd like to express our sincere condolences to the family and many friends of Mr. Bennett. We hope that today's events help give them a sense of closure as they begin their healing process," said New River Gorge National River Superintendent Trish Kicklighter on Saturday afternoon.
Bennett had been fishing with a friend on April 14 when currents in the swift moving river caught the anchor of their fishing boat and capsized the vessel aroundnoonnear the Grandview Sandbar campground and boat launch area in the park. Neither Bennett nor his friend were wearing life jackets at the time. While his companion was able to make it to shore, Bennett disappeared under water shortly afternoon. Search crews responded immediately and the boat was found around4 pm, approximately 150 yards downriver from where it first sank. Search crews have focused much of their efforts in that area since Thursday afternoon and found his body approximately 50 yards from the boat today.
Trained search and rescue divers and support personnel from multiple volunteer fire departments (VFD) have assisted National Park Service crews in the search, including Beaver VFD and Bradley-Prosperity VFD from Raleigh County, Green Sulpher District VFD from Summers County, and Upper Laurel VFD from Wyoming County. Personnel from Jan-Care Ambulance Service in Beckley provided emergency medical support daily.
Local residents and park visitors are reminded that the New River is a high volume river with swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. Water levels can change daily and conditions in even familiar areas can change quickly. Personal flotation devices (PFDs), or life jackets, are essential safety items and should be worn anytime people are in or around the water, including in a boat. Most drownings in the New River involve people who didn't plan on being the water. Even experienced river users can become disoriented or incapacitated during an accident on the river. For more tips on water safety while in the park, visit www.nps.gov/neri/
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 411 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.
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