17-year-old still missing in river after swimming accident

EDINBURGH, Ind. (WISH) – The search for a 17-year-old Franklin teenager was suspended for the night after crews searched for more than nine hours Saturday. Police said Jason Moran remains missing after a swimming accident in the Big Blue River in Edinburgh Friday afternoon.

(Provided Photo/Gabe Olibo)
(Provided Photo/Gabe Olibo)

Officials said Moran, Sarah Mae Mclevish, 16, Michael Chadbourne, 16, Trent Crabb, 17, and Mark Nally, 18, all of Franklin, were swimming in the Big Blue River Friday afternoon when Mclevish went over the Edinburgh dam.

Moran, Chadbourne, Crabb and Nally then attempted to rescue Mclevish.

Mclevish and Chadbourne were rescued from the water and taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. The two were listed in critical condition as of Saturday night.

Crews from several agencies fought the Big Blue River’s strong current on Saturday, desperately dragging lines across the water, searching for the 17-year-old. The water was a couple feet lower than it was, but it’s still a dangerous task for searchers.

“It’s just a broad search area and it’s not an exact science. We usually go to the last seen area and work our way out. Usually pretty effective,” Jet Quillen, an IFD diver and DNR conservation officer, said.

A DNR spokesman called the area where the teens went in a “drowning machine” and urged others not to get into the water there.

“The location of the dam is extremely dangerous to the searchers right now,” Quillen said.

The crews changed tactics every couple of hours Saturday. They eventually formed a grid and walked back and forth in the Big Blue, while an airboat tried to stir up the water.

“It could drop off quickly. You never know. It’s very unpredictable what the searchers might encounter,” Quillen said.

Dozens of friends, family and members of the close-knit community stood by and watched, saying the tragedy still hasn’t hit them.

“It’s just heartbreaking. School just got out and it’s the first day of summer break. Just sad,” Buffy Imel, a Franklin resident, said.

On Friday night, hundreds gathered at the Franklin Community High School football field to pray for the teens and the rescuers.

Students are showing support online by posting photos and words of encouragement with the hashtag #fightjmoneyfresh on Twitter and Instagram.

(Provided Photo/Gabe Olibo)
(Provided Photo/Gabe Olibo)

“I would like his parents to know that I’m praying for them. And I think everybody is,” Imel said.

Toward the end of the search Saturday, crews moved further south, further away from the dam. The teams switched to recovery mode Friday afternoon, meaning they don’t believe Moran is alive.

The DNR said the search will start up again Sunday morning.

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