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Drowning victim located in Shenandoah River

By Michelle Horst and Rachel Molenda -- The Journal

SHANNONDALE - A family's Fourth of July picnic turned tragic Thursday, as one of its members drowned near the river access point at the Shenandoah Springs Wildlife Management Area.

The victim, reported to be in his 30s and from Winchester, Va, stepped off a rock ledge into the water, resurfaced, then disappeared again, according to Ed Hannon, Deputy Director of Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency.

His body was not recovered until Friday afternoon.

Thursday night's rescue efforts involved resources and personnel from Jefferson, Berkeley, Washington and Clarke counties. Crews worked from about 6:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. with no results.

The search resumed at 8 a.m. Friday, and at approximately 3:15 p.m. his body was found near the location where he went underwater, Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Dougherty said.

"His body was located no more than 100 feet from where he went under," Dougherty said, adding that the victim's friends and family were at the site when the body was found.

The conditions of the water, Dougherty said, led the rescue workers on a long search, despite the close proximity.

"The water is rather dark and muddy," Dougherty said. "That condition impedes their ability (to search) and there's a lot of trees and rocks in the water too."

Hannon said water rescues are more common during the summer, as area emergency personnel assist in as many as two or three each month, however, they seldom have fatalities - maybe one per year, he said.

"This is a tragedy, and out of this tragedy let's try to make something positive out of it and heighten the awareness of other people that are venturing out to the rivers and the lakes and even in your backyard pools," Hannon said.

Staff writer Michelle Horst can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 138, or www.twitter.com/mhorstJN.

Staff writer Rachel Molenda can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 215, or www.twitter.com/rmolendaJN.

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