The most intense search effort to date for a man who has been he was rowing was found capsized on the Housatonic River Monday afternoon brought no results on Saturday morning.
The body of 75-year-old , an experienced rower from Woodbridge, is still missing despite valiant efforts from dozens of rescue crews from state agencies and local fire departments. They scoured the river through three towns - Oxford, Seymour and Derby - after the power companies that operate the Derby Dam and the Stevenson Dam on the Oxford/Monroe line agreed to lower the water level in the search area on Saturday. The Derby Dam was opened and the Stevenson Dam was shut off to lower the level in between those two areas more than three feet between midnight and 11 a.m. Saturday. The purpose was to give rescuers a better chance at finding the body, which is believed to be in the cold, murky water. The lowered water made it easier for the side scan sonar on state police boats to search for the body.
Oxford Fire Chief Scott Pelletier said 65 firefighters from Shelton, Oxford, Seymour, Derby and Newtown were involved in the search along with Oxford Ambulance Association volunteers: they walked up and down both sides of the Housatonic searching the water with volunteers from the Oxford-based New Haven Rowing Club, where Fiske was a member. Three rescue boats from the state police and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Patrol also searched with dive teams from the state and from Seymour and the Newtown Underwater Search & Rescue team. Helicopters also flew overhead to get a bird's eye view of the water.
"Our attempts at this point were negative, no sign" of Fiske, Pelletier said. "The DEEP and the state police will continue to do their search the best they can."
DEEP and state police officials were expected to stay on scene until about 1 p.m. Saturday.
Firefighters, most of whom are volunteers, have not been heavily involved in the search efforts since the first two days - it has been handled by DEEP and state police. However, DEEP asked firefighters for assistance on Saturday morning because they knew the river would be drained a little to make the search easier, Pelletier said.
Firefighters called off their portion of the search about 10:30 a.m. and turned the rescue operation back over to the command of Capt. Raul Camejo of the Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police, a division of DEEP. He has led the investigation since Monday night.
Camejo said eventually there may come a point when state police divers say they have done all they can and cannot go any further with the recovery operation. If that happens, he said, he would continue to have his crews search for Fiske on a daily basis.
Rescuers have been at the river searching every day from sun up to sun down looking for Fiske. They do not expect foul play or anything suspicious: Camejo is adamant that Fiske is a family man who would not take off in an elaborately orchestrated fake drowning scheme, despite conspiracy theories that surround the story. (Firefighters have noted that Fiske's car was found nearby with many of his belongings and his shoes were found on shore.)
"He is in the river," Camejo has told Oxford Patch. "And we're going to do everything we can to find him."
The following news release was submitted by the DEEP to news outlets Saturday evening (Note: it says nothing more than what we've reported but says that EnConn Police will search the river "periodically," as stated above, officials told us they would search every day.)
DEEP EnCon Police Coordinate Significant Search Effort To Find Missing Boater in Oxford
On Saturday morning DEEP EnCon Police coordinated a major search
initiative in an attempt to locate Richard Fiske who was reported
missing as the result of a boating accident on Lake Housatonic in
Oxford on November 28th.
Overnight, First Light Power, who controls the Stevenson dam and the
McCallum Company who controls the Derby dam, drew down the water level
of Lake Housatonic to expose as much of the lake bottom as possible.
A search began on Saturday morning consisting of EnCon Police officers
in patrol boats with Connecticut State Police Search & Rescue dogs on
board searching on the water. The Connecticut State Police Emergency
Services Unit Dive Team and Newtown Underwater Search and Rescue
searched the water with side scan sonar units.
Members of the Oxford, Seymour, Derby and Shelton volunteer fire
departments, Seymour Police and volunteers of the New Haven Rowing
Club conducted a foot search of the both sides of the lowered
shoreline of the lake from the area where it is believed that Fiske
went into the water to the Derby dam. The Eagle One Search and Rescue
helicopter from Stratford conducted an aerial search with an EnCon
officer on board.
The Search efforts failed to locate Fiske and the search was suspended
at 1:00 p.m. today, when First Light Power had to begin releasing
water that the Stevenson dam held back.
The EnCon Police will periodically continue to search the area for Mr. Fiske.