Search called off after body of 13-year-old swimmer found in Rittman

RITTMAN, Ohio - The body of a 13-year-old Rittman boy who disappeared while swimming with two friends in Chippewa Creek Sunday afternoon has been found.

The boy's body was found by the Swift Water Rescue Team underneath the dam, according to fire officials. 

Rittman Fire Chief Don Sweigert said earlier on Monday he still held out hope the teen would be found alive.

"I'm going to err on the side of hope and I'm going to consider this a search and rescue," Sweigert said. "We're in the 22nd, almost 23rd operational hour, it's been a long time, as time continues to progress, obviously the chance diminishes but beyond hope, we want it to come to a good conclusion."

Sonar boats went into the creek, as search dogs combed the creek banks. Drones and an Ohio State Highway Patrol plane flew overheard, assisting with the search. 

The area where the teen disappeared is near a "low-head" dam, which firefighters also refer to as a "drowning machine."

"The water in that area is maybe 4 or 5 feet deep, but it's coming over the dam so it’s really turbulent and it will draw somebody down even at that low level," said Sweigert. "That’s why it's important not to let the kids play near the dam. It’ll draw them right in, the undercurrent is strong right there."

The other challenge, the chief said, is that 3 inches of rain fell Saturday night, swelling the creek and resulting in the water being a dark, murky brown that is difficult to see in.

At least three dozen searchers from various agencies helped in the search.

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