Body found in Potomac 5 miles from where pair disappeared

By Dan Morse
Washington post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010; B04

Rescue workers removed a body from the Potomac River on Wednesday afternoon, about five miles downstream from where a 13-year-old girl and her mother disappeared Memorial Day.

About 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, crew members aboard a U.S. Park Police helicopter spotted what appeared to be a body in the river, said Capt. Oscar Garcia of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. The body was just below the Little Falls dam, apparently wedged between rocks, he said.

Rescue workers tethered to ropes waded into the river and placed the body inside an inflatable boat, Garcia said. The operation took about three hours.

Garcia and police officials didn't immediately say whether the body was one of the two family members who disappeared Monday. The body was taken to the Maryland medical examiner's office in Baltimore for an autopsy.

Last year, six people drowned in an area of the Potomac roughly bordered by Fairfax County on one side and Montgomery on the other. Rescue workers said they were concerned that two people went under on the first weekend of the recreation season, and they scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning to draw attention to the dangers of the area and to remind people that it is illegal to swim there.

In the area where the girl and her mother entered the river and were swept away, the Potomac funnels into a narrow section and makes a sharp turn, one of many such bends in an area that rescue workers called the Potomac River gorge. The turns create a series of strong currents. Under the surface, boulders create additional swirling currents.

The area where the body was found was about five miles downstream from where searchers first concentrated their efforts to find the mother and daughter, Garcia said.

Rescuers entered the water looking for the two at 5:10 p.m. Monday. They resumed their search Tuesday morning but grew more concerned as the day went on.

By Wednesday, rescue crews had switched to a recovery effort, meaning they were looking for bodies rather than living victims.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company