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Divers resume search for second missing swimmer

June 27, 2014
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - One of a pair of missing teenage swimmers was found dead by first responders in the AuSable River on Thursday. A river search resumed this morning for the other.

The drowning victim was identified as Taoufik Maknani (tah-FEEK' mahk-NAH'-nee), 17, of Plattsburgh. He was a senior at Plattsburgh High School and was set to graduate Saturday. Maknani was a stand-out athlete who helped lead his school basketball team to a sectional title this year.

Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw responded to the scene and transported Maknani's body to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake where an autopsy is scheduled today.

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The popular Flume swimming hole, on the West Branch of the AuSable River in the town of Wilmington, is seen Thursday.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)

The water rescue operation began at the Flume, a popular waterfall and swimming hole on the West Branch of the AuSable River. The search area on the river is between the Flume and the Wilmington town beach, about a mile-and-a-half downstream.

"We're continuing to search this morning, picked back up at 6 a.m.," Trooper Jennifer Fleischman said Friday morning.

State police scuba divers and investigators, state forest rangers and Essex County Sherrif's deputies are on the scene. About 100 rescuers from multiple agencies were at the river Thursday, forest ranger Capt. John Streiff said at a press conference.

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State police reported Thursday night that one teenager was found dead. They have not released the name of the other missing swimmer but have said it is a teenager.

"With the amount of rain we had over the past few days here, upwards of 2 to 3 inches, it's not the best time to be in swift moving water," Streiff said. "It can be very dangerous."

State police Capt. John Tibbitts Jr. couldn't comment on whether the swimmers were diving off of rocks. He said that was part of the ongoing investigation.

State police and forest rangers each received multiple calls around 2:10 p.m. saying someone was in distress, Tibbitts said at the press conference at the Wilmington firehouse. He said the lost swimmers were part of a group of fewer than a dozen people. Authorities said they were from northern New York but not the Wilmington area.

In the first few hours of the search, conflicting reports circulated about whom the rescuers were looking for and what they found. When the Enterprise asked Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston what happened, he responded, "Not a good result."

Rescue divers could be seen along the river's edge from the Flume trailhead on state Route 86, and a helicopter was in the air, hovering above the river. At one point a state police officer escorted a wet teenage boy away from the Flume area with his arm wrapped around the boy's towel-covered shoulder; another teenager sat in a state police sport-utility vehicle.

"We have a combined, coordinated effort, and we will continue until darkness," Streiff said at the press conference Thursday around 6 p.m.

The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department's rescue boat was put in at the Wilmington beach. The Wilmington, Upper Jay and Keeseville fire departments were also there, as were state forest rangers and multiple state police divisions.

"The North Country turns out for times like this," Streiff said. "We actually had to turn some (first responders) back."

Emergency personnel from several fire departments had left the scene Thursday by 5 p.m.

The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department returned to the scene this morning to assist with their rescue boat, which was one of the first boats to enter the water on Thursday.



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