Rescuers search for Dayton man believed drowned
June 4, 2003
Searchers combed the Carson River off Fort Churchill Road on Tuesday in search of a 19-year-old Dayton man believed drowned Monday night in the fast moving current.
“We had divers in last night and kayakers up and down the river until shortly after midnight and found nothing,” said Lt. Jeff Page of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department as he overlooked the progress Tuesday morning of a track hoe. The machine was clearing a pile of debris from the river 5.7 miles east of Highway 50 East on Fort Churchill Road.
Authorities believe Ben Maxwell was pulled under the debris by a current shortly after 7 p.m. Monday.
Searchers wrapped up Tuesday evening expecting to return on Wednesday to resume looking for Maxwell.
Maxwell and four others had been swimming in the spot for about two hours before the tragedy struck, said James Underwood.
Underwood, 24, said he was on the north bank with Maxwell and a woman named Sarah about 7:15 p.m. Maxwell’s brother, Chris, and friend Jesse Wickware were on the south shore after having raced across the river.
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“Before I knew it, Sarah was in the water screaming, trying to get Ben,” he said. “Everybody started screaming.”
Lyon sheriff’s Lt. Allen Veil said the woman told police Maxwell had jumped into the water because his dog was having problems.
“Then he started laboring behind the snag and Sarah jumped in,” Veil said.
Underwood said by the time he jumped in Maxwell had gone under the water near the pile of debris.
The debris collected around a cottonwood tree that had fallen across the river. Wickware and Chris Maxwell also jumped in to help.
“You couldn’t see anything under the water. The only thing you could do was reach out and try to grab something,” Underwood said. “The water was no joke. The current pulled you under like someone was grabbing your legs.”
After a cell phone call to 911, he said, it took rescue crews 45 minutes to make it to the isolated spot accessible only by a long, winding gravel and dirt road.
Wickware described Maxwell, an ironworker, as a “young, strong guy.”
“I want people to know — don’t go down there and jump in the river. Even if you’re older, don’t think you can jump in the river and be OK. It took a grown man down,” he said.
The river’s depth in the area varies from waist deep to 15 feet.
The river empties into Lake Lahontan several miles downstream.
Eight members of Washoe County’s technical rescue Hasty Team, 16 members of the Lyon County Search and Rescue team, three amateur radio technicians, four Central Lyon County volunteer firefighters and a handful of sheriff’s personnel gathered for Tuesday’s search.
“As quick as that river is running, even the divers were having difficulty,” Page said.
“It’s definitely discouraging,” said Veil. “We’d like to be able to tell the family something — to give them that conclusion. We’ll be back here first thing in the morning.”
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