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Drowning victim found near landing

[8/9/04]The body of a Hinds County man missing since Saturday after he fell into the Mississippi River was found this morning about a mile north of LeTourneau Landing and about six miles downstream from where he was last seen.

“A ferry-boat operator spotted the body and notified 911, and they, in turn, notified us,” said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace. He and Investigator Mike Traxler at 8:40 retrieved the body later identified by Warren County Deputy Coroner Larry Chisley as that of Ken Smith, 30, at 8:40.

Chisley said an autopsy would likely be tonight at Mississippi Mortuary Services in Rankin County.

“Although we always hope for a rescue, we’re glad we were able to recover the body in a timely manner in order to give the family some closure,” Pace said.

Smith’s family has maintained vigil at City Front since he was last seen by friends who were camping with him on a bank just north of where the Yazoo River meets the Mississippi River, Pace said.

“He left to ride to the city waterfront to retrieve some supplies,” Pace said. “Just after he left the camp, a fellow camper heard something that caught his attention.

“He saw the victim on his back trying to swim with the current, and the boat was floating off beside him. We still don’t know what he did that caused him to fall in the water.” Emergency officials were notified at 4:45 p.m.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks joined the sheriff’s department in the search as did volunteers and Smith’s friends. Planes were also used in the search.

The drowning is the second this summer in the river near Vicksburg. Nearly three weeks ago, 23-year-old Pablo Hernandez died as he saved an 11-year-old girl from the river’s strong currents after she fell in at LeTourneau Landing.

“This is yet another example of how important it is to always wear a life vest,” Pace said. “It doesn’t matter how well you can swim, when you get in this river and get caught in this current, you cannot survive it.

“Although it may look calm on the surface, the current under the surface will take you down and not let you go.”