THURMOND, WV (WOAY) – “We were kind of in disbelief at first.”
Nico Bellarde and some friends were rafting the New River on Monday afternoon when they pulled over to wait for the rest of their group to catch up. Then, they came across something unexpected.
“We happened to notice the body first,” Bellarde said. “It was just kind of face down between two rocks.”
That body was 27-year old Rudolpho Cerda, a Beckley native last seen Saturday around 3:00 p.m.
“We told our guide, ‘hey, we may want to check that out,'” said Rafter Rud Yearick. “We found the body after that.”
While the two individuals he was with went to get fishing gear, Cerda fell down a riverbank and came to rest in the water near the Thurmond area. The raft that Bellarde and Yearick were on located him six miles downriver from where he was last seen.
“We kind of just paddled upriver a little bit and pulled off,” Bellarde said. “And waited for the situation to get resolved.”
As the body was retrieved, Yearick was still struggling to fully realize what was happening.
“That’s the last thing we were expecting to find, you know?” Yearick said. “It was somewhat difficult to sit there and sort of process that for a little bit.”
Cerda is the first person to drown in the river this year. He wasn’t wearing a life jacket and the water level was above average for early summer. Bellarde stresses the importance of safety when you are at or near the water.
“It’s always important to be proactive and prepared as much as you can for anything that can happen,” Bellarde said.