WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — Crews searched a stretch of the Grand River in Walker until dusk Tuesday after a person was spotted struggling in the water.
Shortly after 11:20 a.m., two people in a canoe near Veterans Memorial Drive, north of Wilson Avenue, reported seeing a person go under the water. He never came back up.
“It’s frustrating to me that we didn’t see him sooner,” Jeff Neumann, who was in the canoe with his wife Rita, said. “We just saw one look at him, and it’s like, ‘Wow, where did he come from?’ It wasn’t like we saw him coming towards us. There’s a guy swimming in the river.”
“He was obviously in distress and we couldn’t get to him,” Rita Neumann said.
With help from the canoeists to set the search area, crews looked along the river north and south of the Wilson bridge without success.
“Such a helpless feeling to know somebody was there and we couldn’t help them,” Rita Neumann said.
The search transitioned from a rescue effort into a recovery operation around 2 p.m.
“The recovery could take hours,” Walker Fire Department Deputy Chief Chad Host said.
When it got dark, crews paused their search and plan to resume Wednesday morning.
The area of the search is where several jurisdictions meet. The Walker Fire Department, Grand Rapids Fire Department Dive Team, Georgetown Township Fire Department water rescue team and the dive teams from the Kent and Ottawa county sheriff’s departments all responded.
“We called all hands on deck right away,” Host said.
He said the water was calm and visibility was good, favorable conditions for the searchers.
“I was the first diver in,” Lt. Casey Spielmaker, a member of GRFD’s Dive Team, said. “We had 6 to 10 feet of visibility. You could see the bottom real clear. With a boat-based rescue, you kind of do a pie-shaped pattern tied to the boat. Go back and forth, right to left, with the current. And then they bring you in 2 to 4 feet, depending on conditions.”
Drones were also put up to search the shoreline in case the person had managed to get out of the water without help.
Host did not have any information about the identity of the person missing in the water, nor was it clear why that person was in the river. As far as he was aware, no missing persons reports had been filed.
He warned that “any moving water is risky to be in.”
—News 8’s Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.