Teen's body recovered from Pleasant Hill Dam

PERRYSVILLE, Ohio -- After standing for hours in the elements and overnight, the family of the 16-year-old boy whom authorities had been searching for since Friday received closure Sunday afternoon.

The teen's body was recovered from the spillway at Pleasant Hill Dam around 2 p.m., Ashland County Sheriff Lt. Scott Smart said.

Though authorities haven't officially confirmed the identity of the boy, or of a 16-year-old girl whose body was recovered Friday, both families have come forward to ask the community for support and donations for funeral expenses.

A GoFundMe account was set up for the family of 16-year-old Chloe Ernst. More than $1,000 has already been raised. The account can be found at www.gofundme.com/xhes7qg.

Brian Bogner, an uncle of 16-year-old Austin Weyhmeller, confirmed Sunday that his nephew's body was recovered from the water, but he asked the media to respect the family's privacy.

He said friends are designing a T-shirt to remember the teens and to raise money for their families for funeral expenses. More information about where to buy the shirts will be available later, he said.

A candlelight vigil is being held for the teens at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the spillway.

A 14-year-old girl who was pulled from the water Friday and taken to Ashland Samaritan Hospital was treated and released that day, according to information Smart heard but has not confirmed.

After days of searching, Smart said, the boy's body was found Sunday in the area of the spillway they had been searching since two law enforcement dogs indicated in the area. They knew the teen to be in the water when, on Sunday, they found clothing that family members identified to be his, Smart said.

Though Smart couldn't provide details about which of the three teens jumped in the spillway first, he said the male jumped in fully clothed to try to rescue the other two, one of which was wearing a bathing suit.

"He died trying to rescue somebody," Smart said.

Earlier reports of the incident from Ashland County Chief Deputy Carl Richert said a 14-year-old girl jumped in first, and the 16-year-old girl jumped in after to try to save her. The 14-year-old girl was eventually rescued by Cory Tedrow, a ranger from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The 16-year-old girl's body was found about a quarter mile away from the spillway Friday, Smart said.

Richert said the teens came to the area Thursday and were reportedly jumping in the spillway. They returned Friday with other friends.

No swimming is permitted in that area, Richert said.

The mother of one of the friends who was with the group at the time said they were having a good time and being teenagers. Before heading to the spillway, the woman said, Ernst reportedly stopped along the road to pick wild orange flowers for a headband. After making herself one, she had the boys wearing the flowers too.

No one expected a tragedy, she said. The woman declined to give her name in respect for her son's grieving process.

Desirae McKenzie, 18, said she didn't know the group well. She had met Weyhmeller only two weeks before through mutual friends, but it didn't take long for them to form a bond.

She described him as someone who was there for everyone, reflected in his final act of kindness. She also remembered his sense of humor.

"The first time I saw him, I walked in the door and he was sitting in a chair dancing," McKenzie said.

Water currents, debris and other obstacles hindered the dive team's search during the weekend, Smart said. But what divers were dealing with was only half-strength of what the teens jumped into, he said.

"Everybody is relieved for the family that we got them some closure," Smart said.

He asked the incident be a reminder for everyone to respect the water and follow restrictions.

"If it looks dangerous, it probably is," Smart said.

More information will be provided through a joint news release with the Ashland County Coroner's Office, possibly Monday, Smart said. The coroner's office is responsible for officially releasing the teens' identities, he said.


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