Accident Database

Report ID# 49629

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Accident Description

TIMES FREE PRESS: "The unidentified man was standing on the bank when he slipped and fell in the river Monday afternoon. "He was putting his shoes on and slipped and fell in," Polk County EMA director Steve Lofty said. "He was last seen there at the large hole behind the whitewater center."

UPDATE: Search resumes for Cleveland man missing on Ocoee River

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 11:38 a.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, to state that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is also on the scene.

UPDATE at 11:15 a.m.: A rescue team is resuming the search for a missing man at the whitewater center at the top of the Upper Ocoee and working downstream.

It will overlap some of the search area from yesterday but emergency responders believe improved water conditions will give them a better chance to find him, according to Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross. 

The search went well into the night and early morning hours but Tennessee Valley Authority needed to spill water for 6-8 hours to maintain the water system, so the search was paused at about 3 a.m., he said.

TVA dropped water levels again this morning so rescue teams could resume the search. Responders mobilized shortly after 11 a.m. East Polk Fire & Rescue is leading the response. 

Wolf Creek, West Polk Fire & Rescue, Polk County Sheriff's Office, Hiwassee Dam Fire Department, Bradley dive team, Valley Town Fire & Rescue, 

U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and American Medical Response are also on scene. 

Rescue crews will resume a search today on the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee, for a 26-year-old Cleveland man who went missing Monday afternoon after falling in near the Ocoee Whitewater Center.

"He was putting his shoes on and slipped and fell in," Polk County EMA director Steve Lofty said early Tuesday. "He was last seen there at the large hole behind the whitewater center."

The man has not been identified.

Search teams conducted "a systematic search" on both sides of the portion of the river downstream from where the man fell in, he said. Divers and others searched the water while others searched along the banks.

Lofty said the Tennessee Valley Authority had dropped water levels for searchers for most of the night but had to reopen the flow around 3 a.m. or so.

"The water was running at full force at 4 a.m.," he said.

TVA is expected to begin dropping water levels again this morning so a water search can resume possibly by noon, Lofty said. Meanwhile, shoreline search operations are continuing.

Lofty said he believed the first report came in around 5:15 p.m. Monday and more manpower was called to the scene a couple of hours later

"We had about 50 boots on the ground," he said. Search efforts so far have involved officials from the Tennessee Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Bradley County's rescue and dive team, Hamilton County's dive team, Polk County's emergency agencies, TVA and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office's drone might be requested if the search continues into Wednesday, Lofty said.

During the week, commercial rafting operations don't usually use the section of the Ocoee where the search is being conducted, officials said. The search area will be closed to recreational users during the search.

"This is our sixth water rescue in 90 days," Lofty said. "We've had three fatalities so far."


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