Agencies involved in recovery effort reach out for ideas, options

The agencies involved in the search and recovery efforts for Thomas Hill of Tampa, Fla., are reaching out to other organizations, agencies, companies and wild and scenic river managers across the country to get input on other options for the recovery of Hill’s body.“Right now, we’re doing everything we can with the tools we have to recover Mr. Hill,” said Incident Commander Scott Loftis. “But we need to start looking at how others have handled similar situations and bring in some fresh ideas.”In 1999, the U.S. Forest Service temporarily diverted the water to aid in recovery efforts in a different part of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River (WSR).“It’s natural for people to want to compare tragedies,” said U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Mike Crane. “But every situation is different.”Although the agencies are interested in looking at other options, the one thing they won’t compromise is safety.“We remain committed to recovering Mr. Hill’s body for his family,” said Loftis. “But, safety always has been and always will be our priority. We’re not going to look at any options that would compromise the well-being of our team.”The U.S. Forest Service also has to abide by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act whenever it considers activity on the Chattooga.“As we look at other options, we’ll always have safety and the needs of the family foremost in our minds,” said Crane. “But, as an agency, we still have to protect the values of the wild and scenic river.”Recovery operations will continue today with a dive team from Pickens and Oconee counties.

The community will host a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. at the Long Creek Baptist Church, 356 Academy Road in Long Creek, S.C.