June 29, 2014

Still no sign of missing teen in river

WILMINGTON — Saturday marked a third day of fruitless search for Michaell Lawson, the Plattsburgh High School junior who likely drowned on Thursday.

Taoufik Maknani, 17, who was in a small group with Lawson at The Flume on the West Branch of the Ausable River in Wilmington that day, was found dead that afternoon.

State Police Capt. John Tibbitts said Saturday’s effort started at around 8 a.m. and would continue until dark.


“It’s still a missing persons investigation,” Tibbitts said. “We’re looking at it as missing and presumed drowned. We have transitioned to a recovery procedure.”

As they had on Friday, special operations response teams and State Police divers were using underwater cameras to look for the teen.

The senior diver told Tibbitts the water level had dropped between 6 and 10 inches, which they were hoping would improve visibility.

But the water was too rough in The Flume for divers.

“Talking to the senior diver on site, it’s literally impossible for them to put a diver into the area we’re searching right now,” Tibbitts said.

“These guys are professional swimmers; they’re divers, and they’re saying even they wouldn’t go in there.”


Between 50 and 60 people were aiding in the search, whether in the water or as support on land or in the sky, he said.

“This is not unusual at all,” he said referring to the length of the search so far.

The highly technical nature of the operation can take time, Tibbitts said.

“This could actually be considered early in a missing persons investigation.”

It is possible, however, that their labors could be unsuccessful.

“Sometimes there are drownings where you just don’t recover a victim. Those instances are fewer and farther between than you would think, but it does happen.”

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