Richland County Coroner IDs body found in Congaree

akflanagan@thestate.comApril 25, 2014 

— Richland County Coroner Gary Watts has identified the body recovered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the Congaree River Thursday afternoon.

Watts said Darrell Anthony Rotenberry of Hadley Road in West Columbia is the person found in the Congaree River.

Rotenbury’s mother filed a missing persons report with the West Columbia Police Department on April 12, according to Watts.

His mother reported that she had not seen Rotenbury since April 10, according to the missing persons report.

April 10 is the same day witnesses reported seeing a man jump from the Gervais Street bridge.

“A tentative identification has been made based on some items found on the subject and a missing persons report filled around the same time the subject jumped from the bridge,” Coroner Watts said. “Further testing is being performed at this time to positively identify the subject.”

An autopsy conducted Friday morning shows Rotenberry’s death was consistent with a fresh water drowning, Watts said.

Search crews found the body of a man while searching the Congaree River Thursday.

“All we can say is that we were looking for someone to recover and we did recover someone,” Capt. Robert McCullough, DNR spokesman said.

Capt. McCullough said the body was recovered in Richland County, almost to the Calhoun County line, which is near Congaree National Park.

Capt. McCullough didn’t say whether or not the body found Thursday was the same person who jumped off the Gervais Street bridge two weeks ago.

“We are not making assumptions at this point,” McCullough said. “The Richland County Coroner has the victim, and we will let him make the identification.”

The initial search for a man who jumped off the Gervais Street bridge began shortly after 10 a.m. April 10 after witnesses along the West Columbia Riverwalk reported hearing a spalsh and seeing a man floating in the current.

Rescue workers spent the rest of the day searching by water, air and land, and police closed the Gervais Street bridge for several hours.

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