Potomac River search for woman, girl resumes Tuesday
The woman and girl who went missing in the Potomac River Monday are mother and daughter, authorities said Tuesday.
The search for the pair started Monday evening and resumed Tuesday morning. Authorities have not yet released the names of the missing girl and woman, but they confirmed the relationship and said they were 14 and 36 years old, respectively.
The woman and girl were at a social gathering of between 30 and 40 people on the river’s Virginia side, according to Scott Graham, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. They entered the river at a site called Difficult Run shortly before 5 p.m., authorities said; emergency personnel received a call at 4:53 p.m., and boats were in the water by 5 p.m. Monday.
Monday’s search team included workers from Fairfax County Fire & Rescue and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, a U.S. Park Police helicopter and several volunteer kayakers. Their search was called off around 8 p.m.
“How they ended up in the river, we don’t know,” said Graham, who said it is unclear whether they were swimming, slipped on rocks – and whether they went in together or one went in an attempt to help another.
The search was to have been temporarily called off at 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to Graham, because glare off the river makes search work difficult. They are to reconvene at 5 p.m. and determine whether to continue searching or shift to recovery efforts, Graham said.
Recovery operations would constitute a major scaleback, said Graham: They would respond to tips and sightings rather than actively search, and also track weather conditions such as warmer water that could cause a body to surface or current changes that could shift a body’s position and make it visible.
“Our hopes are that we’re still in a search mode right now,” said Graham. The woman and girl might be trapped against a rock or unconscious, he said; they might also have made their way home or to another place and are no longer in the water.
It is illegal to swim in the area where the woman and girl were last seen, though it is legal to walk out on the rocks that jut out into the Potomac.
There were six drownings in the Potomac last year in the Washington area, according to Graham, after none the previous two years. While the water can look calm, undercurrents can be strong and unsuspecting swimmers and people who slip on rocks may be caught by rocks and debris hidden underwater.
“The Potomac River is beautiful, yet deceptive,” said Graham, who called it “concerning” that this happened on the first holiday weekend of 2010.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
-- Dan Morse
Washington Post Editors
June 1, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories: Dan Morse , Emergencies & Rescues , Fairfax , Montgomery
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