A search for a boater who jumped into the Connecticut River in the East Hartford area Saturday has been suspended Sunday afternoon due to dangerous conditions in the river.
Crews got the call to help find man, identified as 39-year-old Ivan De Jesus Morales Mencia, around 2:30 p.m. They suspended the search late Saturday and resumed the search Sunday morning, but have not found Mencia.
Captain Keith Williams with the Connecticut Environmental Conservation Police says five people were onboard a 19-foot boat when one of the passengers jumped into the river near this train trestle bridge.
“Not wearing a life jacket, the current is pretty strong in that area. The individuals that were on the boat, the vessel operator, tried to throw a life ring out to him was unable to have the individual grab on to that life ring. They made several attempts to get him back onto the boat. Unfortunately, he went under the water and hasn’t been seen since.”
On Sunday morning officials said the effort had moved from a rescue to recovery mission.
Police continue to investigate whyMencia may have jumped into the water, as loved ones watched the search in agony.
“The vessel operator was more than cooperative. His vessel checked out safety wise. He had every safety equipment on board. You know, appropriate life jackets for the number of people on board. That was no issue. It’s just that nobody was wearing them, not that they are required too on a motorized vessel,” said Capt. Williams.
Strong winds, dangerous water currents, and finicky weather conditions forced multiple dive teams to wrap up the search for the evening Saturday, and also thwarted recovery efforts on Sunday. DEEP said they suspended the search just after noon Sunday due to the river conditions and exhaustion of sonar resources.
They plan to continue the search when conditions improve over the next few days.
Conditions in the Connecticut River are dangerous to begin with. Saturday afternoon, experienced divers weren’t even able to get into the water in the area where the man went missing.
“Strong currents right there. They edy and circulate. The water depth there is about 60 feet with all the debris from the winter and what not in that area of the river it’s very treacherous to put somebody in,” said Williams.