RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The search for 28-year-old Sarah Erway has been called off until further notice, authorities told 8News, after remains presumed to be hers were found Monday morning in the James River.
At approximately 7:48 a.m., Richmond Emergency Communications received a call from a citizen referencing a body that had been spotted in the middle of the river, roughly 200 yards downstream from the Huguenot Memorial Bridge, according to a release. Authorities with the Richmond Fire Department (RFD) responded and recovered human remains.
According to the Henrico County Police Division (HCPD), this concludes a days-long, multi-agency search for two missing persons, last seen as part of a group of 12 on the James River. Authorities told 8News that nine individuals were rescued, while one person was able to swim to safety on their own.
Clinton Minnicks with DroneWorx RVA said he helped with the volunteer search efforts, much of which were organized by RVA Paddlesports Founder Patrick Griffin.
“Someone sent me an Instagram message online,” Minnicks said. “That’s the first time I had been asked to do a search. I’ve flown my drone over the James River a lot, so I’m very familiar with flying a drone, my drone, over the James River.”
Minnicks said that he is retired, but still does drone work around the city, and also works as a swim instructor. He said that he felt obligated to help once he heard about the recovery efforts to find Erway.
“I can’t imagine what the parents and the friends felt like,” he said. “That was what I could do — fly the drone, down there low and slow in the river. That was my contribution. That was all I could do, and that’s what I did. So I wish I could’ve done more.”
Minnicks said that Erway’s family also organized search parties and provided food to volunteers.
“Everybody was organized and waiting for instructions, and did what they can do to help,” he said. “It was praying for the best.”
According to a release, the enormous effort to find Erway and Winstead involved bringing in search groups from surrounding jurisdictions and out-of-state agencies, including HCPD, Henrico County Division of Fire, City of Richmond Police Department, RFD, Virginia State Police, Department of Wildlife Resources, Chesterfield County, Hanover County, Goochland County, Powhatan County, Henrico Marine Unit, Metro Richmond Aviation, Metro Richmond Flying Squad, James River Park System, U.S. Coast Guard, Richmond City Emergency Management, and Henrico County Emergency Management.
“It doesn’t matter what race, color, creed or anything right now. These are some folks that’s hurting and need help,” Minnicks said.
He told 8News that he hopes this serves as a warning to others who might try to navigate the James River during its highest points.
“It’s fun. It’s beautiful beyond belief. The beauty is beyond — the birds and the rocks — it is gorgeous,” Minnicks said. “But, at the same time, it’s treacherous. So you have to be careful, and I would hope that that’s a lesson that could save a life or some lives.”