Body of man found in the New River identified

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THURMOND, WV (WVNS) — The body of a man who drowned in the New River on Saturday, June 12, 2021 has been identified.

The victim has been identified as Rudolpho “Rudy” Cerda, a 25-year old man from Beckley. A joint search effort had been going on since Saturday afternoon. Crews were able to find his body around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 14.

According to a press release from the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Cerda and two other people were in the Thurmond area of the New River Gorge looking for fishing access. Cerda fell down a rocky riverbank and was resting in shallow water. The two people Cerda was with went to get their fishing gear; when they came back, Cerda was gone and his phone and shirt were laying on shore where he had been sitting.

Park personnel began the search, as well as members of the Division of Natural Resources and trained volunteer search and rescue divers from the Beaver Dive Team. A helicopter search by West Virginia State Police and Fayette County Sheriff’s Office took place on Sunday. The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department brought in a dog to help in the search, and local raft companies were also alerted. The body was found by a raft guide below the Cunard river access, six miles down the river from where he was last seen.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Cerda,” said New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Superintendent Lizzie Watts. “Events like this are tragic.” 

This is the first drowning in the park this year, according to the NPS. Officials are reminding the public that New River is a high-volume river with swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. They said water levels can change daily and conditions in even familiar areas can change quickly. The NPS said life jackets, are essential safety items and should be worn anytime people are in or around the water, including in a boat.

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