UPDATE @ 8:17 p.m. (June 21): “They found him and now we have closure,” Michelle Winston said of her nephew, 17-year-old D’James Moore, who presumably drowned after witnesses said he tried to walk across the Little Miami River in Sugarcreek Twp. on Tuesday night.
“One step at a time,” Winston told News Center 7’s John Bedell on Wednesday afternoon. “As long as we got the body. It’s not like a missing person. We ain’t got to be out here anymore.”
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Winston said Moore and his family had just moved to the Bellbrook area from Dayton last year 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 of James, who was a rising senior at Bellbrook High School.
Winston said this is the second drowning in the family in the last three years.
Her brother, Bert Winston Jr. -- D’James’s uncle -- died in a public pool in Bridgeport, Ala., in July 2014.
The body of D’James Moore was found about 1 p.m. Wednesday, ending a search of the Little Miami River in Sugarcreek Twp. that began about 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“We were working for the family,” Sugarcreek Twp. Fire Chief Jeff Leaming said Wednesday. “We did what we could. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”
The search was called off at 11:34 p.m Tuesday because the dive team and other recovery team members were concerned about safety.
Bellbrook Fire Chief Jim Neidhard on Tuesday night refused to call the situation a recovery operation.
“You never want to give up hope,” he said. “We’re still looking. Our thoughts are with the family of the individual. Certainly, we’re doing all we can to recover their family member.”
Throughout Tuesday evening, firefighters and rescuers called the incident a “missing swimmer” case.
The search resumed at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.
James was found 15 to 20 yards from where he was last seen.
His friends said he joined a group of at least 15 at a rope swing, then walked into the river. They said several of them tried to rescue James. They thought he could swim. One of them called police and a water rescue was called just before 8 p.m.
Mark Head, one of the teenagers at the river who saw James go under, said early on in the search that he thought his friend had died.
"At first we all thought he's just fallen in," 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.
“We all knew then -- we didn’t want to say it out loud -- but we all knew we weren’t going to see him breathing again."
Head said, “where he went in, I think the current is what kind of pushed him around and slipped up his feet a little bit and he fell under. He couldn’t get a grip or stand up after that and then he got to a deep part... and kept going under.”
Head said James tried to cross an area of the river that's 10 feet deep.
"We all thought he knew how to swim. I don't think he knew how deep it was,” Head said of James. “But, he got in, holding his bag over his head and it got deeper and deeper. By the time it got to his shoulders, he was starting to fall under."
Head called it “a misjudgment. No one expects their friend to fall in and just not come back up.”
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