Whitley County emergency crews searching Cumberland River for vehicle possibly connected to missing person case
First responders were busy Friday searching the Cumberland River near Williamsburg for a possible vehicle, which was seen in the river Thursday afternoon, that might be connected to a missing person case.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said that shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, a school bus driver came to the police department reporting what he thought might be a vehicle on its top in the river about 200 yards south of the US25W bridge near the mall. Williamsburg Fire and Rescue and Woodbine Fire and Rescue were able to get boats in the water about 5 p.m. and sonar indicated an image that resembled a vehicle on its top, Bird said.
Authorities had to cease the search about 6 p.m. due to darkness, but resumed the search again Friday morning. Bird noted that the sonar image of a possible vehicle was no longer seen at that location Friday morning, which could indicate that the item – whatever it is – was washed further down river by the current. Between Thursday evening and Friday morning, Bird estimated that the river had risen about nine feet, but by early Friday afternoon, the water level had begun falling again.
“By the time we got the crews in the water yesterday evening, there wasn’t a whole lot they could do,” Bird noted Friday. “They did see what they thought was consistent with a vehicle on sonar that is why we are back today trying to rule it out one way or another.”
Bird said that two boats from the two fire and rescue agencies were using sonar Friday to again try to locate the object, but hadn’t found it yet as of about 1:30 p.m. Friday.
About 15-20 volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members are taking part in the search.
Missing person case
Bird said that the vehicle might be connected to a missing person case that Williamsburg police and the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department are investigating involving Gary Alan Patrick, 29, of Gary Hinkle Road, Williamsburg.
“This is one of the biggest reasons that we are focusing our attention here,” Bird said Friday afternoon from the search’s staging area off George Hayes Road. “Through our investigation yesterday, one of the last places we learned the missing person was seen was about half a mile to a mile up Highway 92E. The river runs parallel to that and this is pretty close proximity to there.”
Bird added that the victim’s vehicle is also missing.
“We are trying to rule it out one way or another,” Bird noted. Patrick’s wife filed a missing person’s report with the sheriff’s department late last month. Bird said that according to Patrick’s wife, he does leave and stay gone for days at a time, but he always maintains phone contact with her, which hasn’t happened in this particular instance.
“His cell phone has been pinged. There haven’t been any outgoing calls on his phone since Nov. 25,” Bird said. “We have an area of interest from the last ping, but there is no more pings, which means the phone has been powered off or the battery is dead on it.”
The last time Patrick was physically seen by his family was the day before Thanksgiving, and the last time his wife had communication with him was early Thanksgiving morning. Bird said that through the investigation, police were able to track Patrick back to a location on Highway 92E early Sunday morning.
“As far as we know this was the last place that he has been seen,” Bird added.
Williamsburg police got involved with the case Thursday afternoon. Initially, they were unaware that the sheriff’s department already had an open missing person case on Patrick.
Bird cautioned that authorities don’t know there is a vehicle in the river, and, if so, whether it has anything to do with the missing person case.
Bird added that there are lots of things in the river, such as an old trailer, that could have surfaced because the overall water level has dropped in recent months due to the drought.
“It could be anything in the water, but it is better to be safe than sorry,” Bird said.
Patrick is a 5’10” white male weighing about 260 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.
Bird noted that if Patrick is alive and out there, police would like for him to contact authorities or reach out to anyone to let people know that he is safe. Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact authorities at (606) 549-6017.
Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy James Fox is also investigating the case.
Authorities called off the search at approximately 3:20 p.m. Friday for the day. Williamsburg Fire Chief Larry Todd said the search is expected to resume Monday morning.