Fayetteville, WV – Search and rescue personnel located the body of 49-year old Terrance Bell from Oak Hill, West Virginia around 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. National Park Service rangers, personnel from West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, volunteer search and rescue members of the Fayetteville, Ansted, Oak Hill and Nuttall Fire Departments, and the Jan-Care Ambulance Service assisted in the search and recovery of the body.
Bell and other family members and friends had been having a picnic at the Fayette Station public river access when they noticed that a child with the group had gone into the water. The children, wearing lifejackets and under adult supervision, had been swimming and wading in the shallow area near the edge, but had been called ashore for dinner. Upon noticing the child, who had gone back out into the water and was drifting towards stronger current, Bell and two other adults attempted rescue. The child and two of the adults made it safely back to shore, however Bell disappeared below the surface in the eddy directly above the access. None of the adults were wearing life jackets.
Searchers were dispatched at approximately 7:30 Sunday evening and searched until dark. The search continued Monday morning, at which time a body was quickly discovered in the same eddy where Bell was last seen. Family members later identified the deceased.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Bell. Events like this are always so tragic and we express our sincere condolences as they begin their healing process,” said New River Gorge National River Superintendent Lizzie Watts early Monday morning.
This is the first drowning in the park in 2018, a reminder that the New River is a high volume river with swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. Water levels can change daily and conditions in even familiar areas can change quickly. Personal flotation devices (PFDs), while required if in a boat, are essential safety items and should be worn anytime people are in or even around the water. For more tips on water safety while in the park, visit www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/water-safety.htm.