Man found safe after pontoon boat plunges over dam near Y-Bridge Tuesday night


By Staff Report

Area first responders rushed to the Y-Bridge late Tuesday night after receiving a call that a man had gone over the dam in his pontoon boat near downtown Zanesville.

After hours of searching the water, it was determined that the man believed to have gone over the dam had drunkenly left the boat unsecured, placing the lives of rescue crews in unnecessary danger.

According to Zanesville Fire Chief Jeff Bell, the first call was received by the Zanesville Dispatch Center at around 11 p.m. in which dispatchers were notified about the overturned boat and missing man.

City fire and police crews quickly arrived from their downtown stations and along with family members of the missing man began to search the water with flashlights for any signs of life.

Falls Township Fire Department and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were also dispatched to the scene to assist in the search.

Due to the aggressive and low water levels, boats were unable to make their way up to the overturned craft.

Instead, resecures in wetsuits had to make the treacherous journey from the shoreline to the pontoon boat.

Responders became more concerned when they found shoes that were believed to belong to the man in the river near the overturned boat.

South Zanesville and Wayne Township were then both directed to launch their boats down south along the river as the search area for the man was expanded.

His family was on the scene of the Y-Bridge Tuesday night and could be observed helping first responders search for him while also being consoled by police officers.

Ultimately, the man was able to be safely located by law enforcement on land after a third party observed a social media post and notified the man he was reported missing, Bell added.

Previous places he had been known to frequent earlier in the night, including Terry’s Tavern, were searched as boats first entered the water but he was not initially found.

Calls from his family to his cell phone went right to voicemail.

Once it was clear that a life was no longer in danger, Bell said that the decision was made to pull first responders out of the water citing dangerous conditions.

Currently, the plan is to remove the pontoon boat from the water whenever it becomes safe to do so.

The man who was reported missing, whose name has not yet been publically released, could face potential criminal charges and fines pending a further investigation.

It is alleged he was drinking and did not secure the boat when docking it, it is also unclear if he had the owner’s permission to take the boat.

Bell said he always wants the public to air on the side of caution and alert authorities but that his firefighters also put their lives in danger in what they believed was in the pursuit of saving another person’s life.

“I’m just glad no one was injured,” said Bell. “We constantly train for these kinds of situations.”

A representative with ODNR did not respond to a request for comment.