Search for swimmer ends after report proves false

Sunday, April 6, 2008 | 5:27 p.m. CDT; updated 12:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbia firefighters searched for a drowned swimmer in a pond at Cosmopolitan Park for about 90 minutes Saturday evening only to learn the original report was false, Captain Eric Hartman said.

Firefighters, Columbia police and EMS units responded to the water rescue at 6:19 p.m. Saturday after a witness reported seeing a man slip beneath the water and not resurface after swimming to the middle of the pond, according to a fire department news release. The water was approximately 15 feet deep.

The fire department initiated rescue efforts using a Zodiac-type boat, an inflatable boat with a small motor that is good for maneuvering in shallow water, Hartman said. But after searching the water for about an hour, efforts shifted to recovery as the victim was presumed dead.

Police continued their interview of the juvenile witness, and inconsistencies developed in the witness’s statement, according to the release. A family member of the witness came to the scene, helped investigators interviewing the witness and notified police that the juvenile has “diminished mental capacity,” according to the release. It was determined the report was not credible, and the search was ended.

Hartman said the rescue and recovery efforts were “pretty straightforward” before being called off. Five fire department apparatus and 14 personnel participated in the efforts.

“Instances like this can be frustrating,” Hartman said. “It ties up resources when we could need them elsewhere, but we’re glad we didn’t have someone in the water, and it is the fire department’s mission to respond to calls like this.”

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