Man’s body recovered from Laurel Creek

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Members of local emergency crews prepare to recover the body of Robert Smith Jr. from Laurel Creek.

PARKERSBURG — About an hour after searches resumed recovery efforts Saturday, the body of a second passenger was found in a Jeep that was swept away by high waters along Laurel Creek on Friday.

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said the body of Robert Smith Jr., 56, was found by a member of the Waverly Volunteer Fire Department shortly after the search resumed Saturday. On Friday crews recovered the body of Topanga I. Smith, 18, from the 1992 Jeep that was submerged in Laurel Creek along Laurel Creek Road off Old St. Marys Pike outside Parkersburg.

Smith’s daughters, Kristian Koon and Jasmine Lynch, were at the scene. They said they wanted to thank the volunteer firefighter from Waverly who found their father’s body.

“We were out on the search,” said Waverly VFD Chief Dennis McAtee. “We started at noon and we came across the body. One of our members found him.”

McAtee said he estimated the body was three-quarters to a mile from where the vehicle was found in the water.

Stephens said there were individuals out before noon, but most arrived at noon to resume the search.

“There were some out before noon searching; some individual firefighters and myself came out here walking,” he said. “Chief McAtee organized his guys and they showed up at noon.”

Stephens said if Smith’s body had not been found today there were offers of additional help in the search.

“We’ve been blessed with getting a number of people who wanted to help,” he said.

Stephens said several agencies made the search possible.

Along with sheriff’s deputies, others assisting with the search were members of the Waverly Volunteer Fire Department and St. Joseph’s Ambulance Service and Camden Clark Medical Center Ambulance Service responded to the scene. The Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team responded to assist, and members went into the water to connect cables from a Pifer’s Service Center truck to lift the Jeep out of the water Friday.

As a result of the rainy and snowy weather Friday and Saturday, a large number of accidents had been reported on area roads. Dispatchers at the Wood County Telecommunications Center said as of Saturday afternoon the number of accidents had gone down. The major roadways had some slick spots and secondary roads and streets were ice-covered and slippery.

Stephens said there were 11 crashes in the area Friday night. Wood County 911 reported a vehicle was caught in water along Williams Pike and was swept away, No further details were available.

A spokesman for the National Weather Service in Charleston said the estimated snowfall range for Wood County was one-and-a-half to three inches. He said the service received calls about freezing rain in Wood County. The next chance of snow will be Monday and Monday night.