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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.


Rescue workers on Tuesday morning (Gerald Martineau/Post). See more photos

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

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 1, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Dan Morse , Emergencies & Rescues , Fairfax , Montgomery  
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Comments

This is a tragic reminder of how dangerous even the most placid-looking stretches of the Potomac River are.
I'd like to voice my appreciation of the local Fire Departments who are so active in search and rescue missions on the River, in addition to their main duties as firefighters. Don't forget to support your local fire department!

Posted by: krickey7 | June 1, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

People just don't get it. Anyone who's lived here in the D.C. area for any length of time knows that you just don't swim in the Potomac within several miles of Great Falls if you value your life.
Apparently some people are getting the message or don't want to get it.

Posted by: ANONS | June 1, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I dont get this time line at all. The mother and daughter entered the river shortly before five Monday, emergency personnel recieved a call at 4:53pm Monday and had boats in the water by five?

Posted by: semilost44 | June 1, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

semilost44 wrote: I dont get this time line at all. The mother and daughter entered the river shortly before five Monday, emergency personnel recieved a call at 4:53pm Monday and had boats in the water by five?

Semilost, at some point before 5:00 on Monday, the mother and daughter entered the river for unknown reasons (could have been a slip by one and a failed rescue attempt by the other; could have been intentional; but who knows?). At 4:53, the tones alerted the rescue units and within seven minutes by 5:00, rescue boats were in the water.

I live a short distance from where this occurred and spend time on and long the river. Year after year, I follow the sad count of bodies retrieved from the river. They can post signs and warn people, but the allure of the beautiful river is great and inevitably tragedy comes throughout every summer.

At this point, it is probably a recovery effort and little can be done other than to wait for bodies to surface when the water temperatures warm or currents shift enough to wash them loose from a rock pinning. It is a sad time for the family and their friends.

Posted by: MdLaw | June 1, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

semilost44 wrote: I dont get this time line at all. The mother and daughter entered the river shortly before five Monday, emergency personnel recieved a call at 4:53pm Monday and had boats in the water by five?

Semilost, at some point before 5:00 on Monday, the mother and daughter entered the river for unknown reasons (could have been a slip by one and a failed rescue attempt by the other; could have been intentional; but who knows?). At 4:53, the tones alerted the rescue units and within seven minutes by 5:00, rescue boats were in the water.

I live a short distance from where this occurred and spend time on and long the river. Year after year, I follow the sad count of bodies retrieved from the river. They can post signs and warn people, but the allure of the beautiful river is great and inevitably tragedy comes throughout every summer.

At this point, it is probably a recovery effort and little can be done other than to wait for bodies to surface when the water temperatures warm or currents shift enough to wash them loose from a rock pinning. It is a sad time for the family and their friends.

Posted by: MdLaw | June 1, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Goners. Give it up.

Posted by: rpcv84 | June 1, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Why would glare off the river makes search work difficult? Polarizing sunglasses eliminate glare from water very effectively.

And why haven't the names of the pair been released? Shouldn't be any harm in releasing their names, as their next-of-kin obviously knows that they are missing by now.

Posted by: postisarag | June 1, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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