VSU student’s body pulled from Appomattox River

Posted at 2:20 PM, Apr 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-22 21:09:59-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- Officials said a body believed to be one of the missing Virginia State University students was recovered from the Appomattox River on Monday afternoon.

Chesterfield Fire and EMS spokesman Lt. Jason Elmore said sonar technology helped dive crews locate the victim just after 4 p.m. around 300 to 400 yards from the shore. The body was taken to the medical examiner's office in order to positively identify the victim.

Elmore said the search for the second victim will continue Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the same area where the student's body was discovered.

Swift waters are a concern for dive crews, especially closer to the bridge. Elmore also said it is very deep in that section of the river and that the water temperatures are around 60 degrees.

Jauwan Holmes and Marvell Edmondson, both from Hampton Roads, were reported missing Saturday.

"We extend our thoughts and prayers to the families involved and also express appreciation to the emergency professionals who are so tirelessly conducting this search,"  Tom Reed, VSU's Director of University Relations, said in a statement.

Earlier in the afternoon, Elmore said crews continue to do riverbanks searches with boats.

"When we get spots that are hit by our sonar, then we'll put divers in the water in those specifics areas," he said.

Witnesses told CBS 6 the students disappeared in the river during an "initiation ritual." Students Michael Aiken and Christian Cavazos said they were two of seven students who participated in the ritual to join a club the students called “Men of Honor.” On Saturday, the students said part of the ritual was to swim the Appomattox River. University officials said they do not sponsor or sanction the group.

Lt. McCullough would not confirm the students went missing as part of an initiation ritual.

"At this time can't comment on that.  I'm not really sure where the investigation is or whether that's something we're looking into currently. I've heard rumors of that as well," McCullough said. "Right now our focus is the rescue and recovery and assisting the fire department in that."

McCullough said officers on scene are also making sure classmates of the missing students are staying safe and not getting in the way of investigators as they too search for their friends.

"We are okay with individuals trying to come out and do their part, we just want to make sure they do it safely," McCullough said. "We're not going to restrict them for doing anything. What we would ask is that they be careful of the water areas. We don't want to have anyone become a victims of these waters as well."

The search for the missing students continues at this hour. Emergency crews said they would end today's search around dusk. They encouraged volunteer searchers do the same.