By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
DELAWARE TOWNSHIP —
Although cars were seen lining the area around Hamburg Bridge Friday, the official search for the missing canoeist from Reynolds was called off late Thursday evening.
“We didn’t find any trace of him,” said Phil Steele, chief of Transfer Volunteer Fire Department. “The sonar didn’t show anything; the dogs didn’t find anything.”
Steele was forced to call off the search for Eric Metz, 47, after scuba divers scoured the length of the Shenango River in the area and took dogs out on boats as part of the recovery operation on Thursday.
“We searched from New Hamburg to Big Bend,” Steele said. “We didn’t find any trace of him.”
Metz was canoeing with his daughter and her mother Wednesday when the boat capsized about a quarter-mile north of the Hamburg Bridge in Delaware Township, Steele said. Metz made sure his family members were safe on the river bank before he was pulled under and never resurfaced, Steele said.
A family member said that Metz was a skilled boater who frequently canoed that route.
“We have covered the route and I don’t know where else to search.” Steele said.
Rescue teams from various fire departments and Mercer County organizations searched for more than four hours starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday and for the entire day Thursday.
Steele said they also searched on foot for Metz along both banks of the river.
“We know what the others in the canoe told us,” Steele said. “But we don’t know for sure where he went in.”
Steele directed the operation that included a team of scuba divers, a hovercraft, all-terrain vehicles, boats, canoes, kayaks and a helicopter.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources closed flood gates Wednesday upstream at Pymatuning Dam, which by Thursday had lowered the water level in the river.
Joining in the search were firefighters from Hermitage, Clark, Jamestown and Patagonia, and officials from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the county emergency management agency. Police from Pymatuning Township and Pennsylvania State Police assisted rescue crews.