UPDATE: Search for barge worker’s body called off because of high winds; will resume Thursday morning

Published 4:18 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The search for the body of Donny Mitchell, 50, who fell into the Mississippi River while working on a barge during the early morning hours on Tuesday, was suspended today at about 2 p.m. because of increasingly brisk winds.

Robert Bradford, Adams County Emergency Management director, said the search would resume on Thursday morning.

“Tomorrow, the company is going to move the barges that we think he went under and see if we can find him,” Bradford said.

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Adams County Search and Rescue is using sonar to assist in their search, he said.

“If we don’t have luck finding him tomorrow, we will probably suspend our search until the river drops lower and visibility is greater,” Bradford said. “This search is a combined effort of a lot of agencies and people who are all trying their best to help the family out as much as possible and retrieve the victim. It just happens to be a bad time of year.”

He said the water is very cold and currents are swift, which is hampering the search effort.

On Tuesday morning, Mitchell was attempting to leave the barge via a ladder to make his way to a walkway above at Buzzi Unicem USA’s terminal on L.E. Berry Road in Natchez when he fell into the river.

Witnesses worked to try to save him, tossing him a life preserver ring and trying to grab him with a drag hook, but were not successful.

Personnel from Emergency Management, Adams County Search and Rescue, the Natchez Fire Department, the Adams County Sheriff’s Department and Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, as well as Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries have worked tirelessly to try to recover Mitchell’s body.

On Wednesday morning, Chops Wrecker Service brought its crane to the scene and used it to move driftwood that had piled up in the river at the area Mitchell went into the river.

“I would like to commend Chops Wrecker Service. They are always there when we need them. All we have to do is ask, and they are right there,” said Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten.

“If we don’t have success tomorrow, we will contact the Coast Guard and put it out for all barge traffic on the river below us and the counties below us to be on the lookout,” Bradford said.