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Diving team says river conditions made recovery of boy’s body difficult

DUNBAR, W.Va. — Diving officials say rough water conditions played a role in the difficulty of finding the body of a 6-year-old who drowned in the Kanawha River over the weekend.

The body of Deonco Howard of Dunbar, was recovered Sunday evening by search teams led by United Diving and Marine. Howard 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.

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.

“Public Safety divers were having a hard time because of the current, visibility and all the different things down there. They were getting hung up, didn’t feel safe going into a few places and wanted to know if we’d come up and take a look,” Clark Sigman the owner of United Diving and Marine told 580-WCHS.

Sigman, who is the brother of Kanawha County Emergency Management Director C.W. Sigman, said they were called to help by C.W. because of almost ‘zero visibility’ in the river. Officials said Howard was found with his foot hung up on a tree limb about 75 yards from where he went into the water.

“There were several cars in that water, an old Ryder truck, trees with big root balls, old sunken barge, and different debris. There was a current to the river with almost zero visibility,” Clark Sigman said.

The two-day search included more than 100 local first responders. The sheriff’s department brought in United Diving Sunday evening who had specialized equipment.

Both victims are scheduled to undergo autopsies at the state Medical Examiner’s Office.

”Our hearts and prayers and condolences go out to the family,” Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Joe Crawford told MetroNews on Sunday. “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.”

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