Missing Teen Presumed Drowned

By: Jeff Shepard
By: Jeff Shepard

Last night around 8:18 p.m., a call came in to Lauderdale County's 9-1-1 system that a 16-year-old girl had fallen out of a boat and was missing at Lake Okatibbee.

"We were on the water, on the scene at approximately 8:44 last night," said Sgt. Bobby Wilder of the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "It's been ongoing, until late last night we shut down because of the clarity in the water plus the vision out there at night. And we started back out there early this morning."

Approximately 35 rescuers, using 15 boats and a helicopter have been on the scene since Monday night. Concerned citizens joined the Wildlife Department, the Meridian Fire Department, Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the recovery effort.

The search is being conducted in a section of the lake that is almost 18-feet deep, providing very murky underwater vision.

"We have a little sunlight, but once you drop below a certain footage, you start losing it," Wilder said. "This lake is not a crystal clear lake that you're dealing with. And that hinders it, even with the cameras and the divers. Most of the divers are using their feel because they cannot see."

The missing girl fell from a boat that also carried her father and a family friend. Authorities say they have already inspected it for any clues that may answer how the girl fell overboard.

Search and rescue officials planned to continue the search until the teen is found.


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