Diver dies during search in Monroe County

A diver aiding in the recovery effort for a missing Smithville teen died Wednesday afternoon.
David Sheffield, 44, of Dorsey died while assisting the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies in the search for Taylor Smith of Smithville, who was last seen swimming in the Buttahatchie River in south Monroe County on Friday.
According to Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley, Sheffield received immediate medical attention.
“Mr. Sheffield and other members of the Itawamba County Dive Team had been in the water between one and two hours,” Gurley said. “According to witnesses I spoke with, Sheffield came to the surface and said he could not breathe. They called for assistance and got him into the boat. It is believed he was not breathing at that time.”
MedStat Ambulance Service Supervisor Dave Eldridge was at the scene and immediately started medical treatment and continued it in the ambulance to Pioneer Community Hospital in Aberdeen, Gurley said. However, Sheffield was pronounced dead on arrival at 1:13 p.m.
His body has been sent to Jackson for an autopsy.
Local diver and conservationist James Cummins of Wildlife Mississippi said flood-level waters and swift currents can be extremely dangerous, even to trained divers like Sheffield.
“As a diver myself, I know that swimming in swift rivers is not a comfortable situation,” he said. “To further complicate things, you are diving into water that is not clear and you are not sure what you are diving into. The Buttahatchie River is actually one of the state’s swifter-moving rivers. This makes it very dangerous for swimmers and divers – even experienced divers.”
Smith, 15, disappeared while swimming with some friends in the Buttahatchie River Friday. Smith is believed to have drowned and authorities have been and will continue searching for his body.
A spokesperson for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said the search for Smith’s body continued Wednesday afternoon. As of Wednesday night, his body had not been recovered.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has been assisted by the Columbus Fire and Rescue team, Itawamba Dive Team, Golden Triangle Search Team, Search Dog South of Memphis, DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, among other agencies.
“Deputies and wildlife officers have been working 14-18 hours daily on search efforts,” Monroe County Sheriff Andy Hood said. “Efforts have been made and we have pooled every resource that has been available.”

Jeff Clark/Monroe Journal

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