DUNBAR, W. Va. — The body of a 6-year-old boy who drowned in the Kanawha River early Saturday morning was recovered Sunday evening by search teams.
Deonco Howard, of Dunbar, went into the river at the Shawnee boat ramp in Dunbar at around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. He was there with family members who were fishing. Investigators said he went up into a Chevy Tahoe to turn off the headlights and accidentally kicked it into gear. The vehicle struck Howard’s aunt Michelle Godsey, 31, from Ohio. knocking her into the river.
(Police originally identified Godsey as Katreece Wells of Indiana but later learned that was an alias name.)
Investigators said Godsey was able to rescue the boy from the SUV but then they both went under the water. Her body was recovered not long after the drowning. The Tahoe was located and dragged to the riverbank Saturday evening.
The search for the Howard resumed Sunday morning. The body was recovered at around 8 p.m.
”Our hearts and prayers and condolences go out to the family,” Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Joe Crawford told MetroNews. “I can’t imagine what they are going through but I want to make sure we let them know that we did everything we could do.”
The two-day search included more than 100 local first responders. The sheriff’s department brought in a professional diving crew, Putnam County-based United Diving, Sunday evening with specialized equipment. The team was able to locate the boy’s body about 75 yards from where he went into the water.
Crawford said there was a lot of debris in that area of the river including several abandoned vehicles. The river was murky and swift Saturday after Friday’s rain. That also made it difficult for divers, Crawford said.
Crawford said preliminary indications are the two deaths were the result of a tragic accident.
”There are no signs of any foul play. It was just a tragic accident that occurred,” he said. “When kids are involved that makes it more difficult but hopefully we were able to bring some resolution to them (the family) by locating the body.”
Both victims are scheduled to undergo autopsies at the state Medical Examiner’s Office.
Those involved in the search/recovery efforts included the Institute, Glasgow, Nitro, St. Albans, South Charleston, Charleston, Belle and West Side fire departments; The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department and dive team, Charleston PD, Dunbar PD, the state DNR, Kanawha County Emergency Management, State Police Aviation, United Diving and the Red Cross.