Missing boat later found with occupants safe

Published 12:11 am Friday, December 21, 2018


VIDALIA — Search and rescue boats combed the Mississippi River for approximately two hours Thursday afternoon searching for a boat that had been reported missing but was later found with its occupants safe aboard.

The search began approximately 2 p.m. Thursday when officials responded to a call from individuals at Promise Hospital, about a small fishing boat moving erratically on the Mississippi River without a clear view of any driver in sight.

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The callers reported that it was unclear whether the boat was closer to the Mississippi or Louisiana side of the river as it appeared to be spinning in circles before speeding off toward Natchez, officials said.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials headed the search for the boat that was later found with a young couple sitting inside safe a sound, Vidalia Chief of Police Joey Merrill said Thursday afternoon.

The search lasted approximately two hours as a drizzle of rain swirled amid 50-degree temperatures while representatives of several agencies and other officials stood waiting along the Vidalia riverfront and Natchez bluff.

Several rescue boats were launched in search of the boat or its occupants.

Personnel from Vidalia fire and police departments, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Natchez fire and police departments and Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks all responded to the call and agencies took turns on both private and wildlife and fisheries boats during the search while other people scanned the area near a boat launch with binoculars.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft launched his personal boat near TownePlace Suites to assist in the search.

“We found a truck and trailer on the Vidalia side, but we don’t know if its owner is who we’re looking for or not,” Merrill said before the boat had been found. “We don’t know if the boat launched from the Natchez or Vidalia side.”

Merrill said Von Manchester and his wife, Ruby, were later found still sitting in their boat as they were picking up scrap iron from the river.

“It was definitely the boat that was spotted,” Merrill said. “The callers from Promise Hospital confirmed it.”

Merrill said he was grateful that there was no cause for alarm and thanked all of the agencies that responded to what could have been a very serious situation.