Missing swimmer’s body recovered from Roanoke River

Published 3:46 pm Monday, June 4, 2018

LEWISTON-WOODVILLE – A search by several first-responder agencies ended in tragedy here Monday afternoon as the body of a Bertie County swimmer, who went missing in the Roanoke River on Friday afternoon, was recovered.

Bertie County Sheriff John Holley said the body of 20-year-old Israel Alonzo was found at approximately 1:40 p.m.

Holley added the body was located about five to six miles downriver from where Alonzo was first reported missing on June 1 at the location just outside Lewiston Woodville off Weeping Mary Road.

Holley said his office first received the call around 5 p.m. Friday.

Emergency Management units from Halifax and Hertford counties, North Carolina Wildlife officials, and Search and Rescue from Pitt County joined the efforts of Bertie County EMS as the search resumed throughout the weekend.

Later on Saturday, Holley said the search efforts had moved from a rescue to a recovery.

Alonzo had been at the dock with friends when he jumped into the water at the location’s NC Wildlife Commission’s boat access point right on the river around 3:45 p.m.

“He got a little too close out there to the current area and he went under twice,” Holley told several news outlets on Saturday. “One of the young gentlemen went out and tried to save him, but they were not able to do so.”

According to Bertie County Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper, crews actively searched the area with sonar as well as with dogs.

Cooper said they asked people to avoid the Roanoke River area due to the high water and strong currents.

“Searchers were doing everything they can to find the missing swimmer given the condition of the water,” Cooper noted.

Holley added that the recent heavy rains caused high, swift moving waters along the river thus making their search efforts more difficult.

The sheriff added the Roanoke’s banks and swamps have swelled making it tougher to drive along Weeping Mary Road and access the boat dock.

“Here at the Roanoke River, the current is so strong, even officers going out in the water have to be very careful,” Holley continued.

“The Roanoke River is one of the most dangerous rivers in the county because of the current,” Holley said.

Holley said his office usually sees on average about one missing swimmer case per year. He thanked all those who helped with the recovery effort.

“Everyone worked together like a glove,” said Holley. “A lot of that is thanks to hard training to make it work.”