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Child missing in canoe mishap

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

One person is missing and presumed drowned, while two other people were pulled from the river and taken to area hospitals following a canoeing accident on the West Fork River on Sunday, officials said Sunday night.

No names have been released on the three victims, tentatively identified as one adult male, one adult female and an 11-year-old female, pending notification of relatives, said John Elko, chief of the West Milford Volunteer Fire Department.

"We really don't have any names to release at this time. What I can say is both the adults were taken to area hospitals for resuscitation efforts after they were pulled from the river, and the 11-year-old child has not yet been found," Elko said.

The fire chief confirmed that the adult male had been taken by helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital, where he was listed in "critical" condition. The female was taken to United Hospital Center, but no further details were released.

Elko said the details of the accident remain a little sketchy because family members were not available for comment.

The three were reportedly paddling a full-sized canoe near the Highland Dam when the canoe capsized. Emergency crews responded to the scene along the Highland Dam Road shortly after 1:45 p.m.

"How they happened to be near the dam and if they were wearing any life preservers hasn't been determined at this time," Elko said.

Deputies from the Harrison County Sheriff's Department were the first to arrive on scene, followed by an ambulance and the West Milford firefighters.

Also responding were fire department personnel from Stonewood, Lost Creek and Nutter Fort, along with ambulances from Harrison County, Clay-Eagle, Anmoore, Salem and Jan-Care.

Dive teams from Harrison, Lewis, Marion and Barbour counties also responded, with several of the divers going into the water. Rescue personnel remained on scene till 7:30 p.m. to search for the missing 11-year-old, but darkness hampered their efforts.

One bystander, who was not part of the rescue effort, was taken from the scene with chest pains, but no details were given on his condition.

Elko said the search should begin again by 8 a.m. today. A call has been made to a Wood County rescue team that has access to a helicopter with sophisticated equipment that can help in the search for the missing child, he said.

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