Michelle Winston, the aunt of drowning victim D’James Moore, 17, said the family has closure after crews found his body Wednesday afternoon. JOHN BEDELL / STAFF
Photo: JOHN BEDELL / STAFF
Photo: JOHN BEDELL / STAFF

Bellbrook drowning victim, 17, was happy, fun person, aunt says

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Rescue crews found the body of D’James Moore, 17 of Bellbrook, around 1 p.m. Wednesday. According to Sugarcreek Twp. police, the boy had been with friends at a local rope swing spot along the Little Miami River on Tuesday when he went under.

Sugarcreek Twp. Fire Chief Jeff Leaming said the victim’s body was found about 15 to 20 yards away from where he was last seen in 12 to 13 feet of rushing water.

Moore was reportedly with a group of at least 15 friends near the river, when he entered to retrieve his backpack. His friends said they didn’t immediately know the severity of the situation when he went under.

MORE: Mother describes tragic account of 2-year-old’s drowning

“At first we all thought he’s just fallen in,” Mark Head said. “Someone will save him. Everyone was kind of laughing. The longer no one was out there, the farther he went under…the more serious everyone got until everyone started trying to get in to get him and no one found him.”

Head, a recent graduate of Bellbrook High School where Moore had just completed his junior year, said several friends tried to pull him up and succeeded a few times, but the current became too strong.

Leaming said while it’s okay for people to be in the river, it’s not safe to be on or in the water unless they’re wearing a life vest.

Family members and friends waited on scene Wednesday afternoon, holding on to the slimmest of hopes Moore would be found alive.

“They found him, now we have closure” Michelle Winston, Moore’s aunt said after his body was discovered. “One step at a time. God knows best. As long as we got the body. It’s not like a missing person.”

Winston said Moore and his family had just moved to the Bellbrook area last year from Dayton and was in the process of adjusting to his new life.

“He just met new friends coming from another side of town…he was adapting,” Winston said.

Local rescue teams began their search Tuesday around 7:50 p.m., having to stop the search around 11:30 p.m, after the darkness made it unsafe to continue. Search parties included dive teams from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the city of Enon.

Rescuers returned around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and found Moore’s body roughly five hours later.

“Anyone under the water for a certain amount of time is not going to survive that incident, unfortunately,” Leaming said.

“We feel deeply. We’re parents and we understand their desire to bring that person home and that’s why we were there today. We were working for the family and we did what we could. It’s just an unfortunate and sad situation,” Leaming said.

MORE: Crews rescue 2 from Little Miami River in Sugarcreek Twp.

Winston said her nephew was a happy, fun person who loved his family.

The area were Moore was found was not unfamiliar to him — he had visited the area often and knew how to swim according to Winston, but the current was too strong when he went under Leaming said.

“You cannot defeat Mother Nature when it’s that high,” Winston said. “…the current just took them. You know, you can’t compete with that.”

This isn’t the first incident in Winston’s family where a family member drowned. She said her brother — Moore’s uncle — drowned in a public swimming pool in Bridgeport, Ala. in 2014.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 463 people drowned from 2012 through 2015. Preliminary numbers show that 109 Ohioans drowned in 2016. Statistics for 2017 are not available.

MORE: Rec centers offering free swim lesson

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