Rafter Remains Missing Following Fatal Accident In River

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (AP) - An empty raft churning in the Chagrin River's froth beneath the Daniels Park dam was a grim reminder of missing rafter Charlie Trizza.

Huddled beneath drenched blankets and makeshift raincoats fashioned from garbage bags, about 50 of his friends and relatives waited along the riverbank for any sign he might still be alive Tuesday.

Trizza, 19, and Chad Schreibman, 18, both of Lyndhurst, were rafting down the Chagrin about 4:15 p.m. Sunday when their raft overturned at the small dam. The force of the rain-swollen river sucked them under at the bottom of the dam, fire officials said.

Schreibman's body was found about an hour later about four miles downstream at Borac's Landing in Eastlake. He was pronounced dead at LakeWest Hospital in Willoughby.

But Trizza was not found.

"We searched the entire river to the mouth and found no signs," Willoughby Fire Chief Mel House said. "At some point we'll have to make a decision whether to continue."

Trizza's family gathered at the river's bank Monday. Through a spokeswoman, they declined to comment except to say they were grateful for the support they had received.

The two rafters were friends who attended Brush High School, where Schreibman was a junior in auto technology. Friends said Trizza left school last year.

"Everybody liked them. They were both great guys," said Adam Tyler, who graduated from Brush High last year. "We came here Sunday night and had a candle vigil and said some prayers. We're hoping for the family's sake they find him."

House said firefighters tried to remove the raft for the family's sake but could not find a safe way to dislodge it.

"The water's running too fast, and with all that debris it could easily pull someone in," House said. "This is hard on everyone. Our job is to save lives. This is not what we are used to doing."

The small dam in the river is one of many in Ohio, said Emily King, public-information and education manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft.

Debris caught in the undertow can pummel a person to death. And the danger is compounded because the low-profile dams may not be visible or audible to the unwary upstream boater until it's too late, she said.

The dam at Daniels Park is owned by Willoughby. It is 6 feet tall and was built about 80 years ago for a water plant that has not existed for decades.

Larry Sherman, a hydraulic engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Buffalo, N.Y., said 467 such dams have been removed in 43 states since 1912, 177 of them in the past decade.

Willoughby Mayor David Anderson said a 1999 Corps of Engineers report cautioned that removal of the Daniels Park dam could cause problems elsewhere on the Chagrin River.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)