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Family grieves as crews search for drowning victim

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 13 2013 04:44:24 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 13 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

The search continues for a man officials believed drowned in the Nolichucky River Wednesday evening.

GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. -

The search continues for a man officials believed drowned in the Nolichucky River Wednesday evening.

We're told it happened near the TWRA access off Bird's Bridge Road in Greene County.

Greene County rescue crews weren't anticipating any rescue at all Thursday morning. Officials probed the Nolichucky River for a man they believe drowned under the water's surface around 6:30 Wednesday evening. "We did arrive to the scene here to find a Hispanic male had been out on a sandbar and walked off that sandbar and went under the water and did not resurface," said Lt. Wesley Holt with the Greene County Sheriff's Department.

Officials told News 5 the river's sandbars can drop straight down. "In this river right here in areas it's 15 or 20 feet deep so once you go under, the current can pull you and keep you under," said Lt. Holt.

As crews dragged the bottom of the river in search of a body, family and friends of the victim grieved along the banks.

Maria and Jesus Martinez told News 5 it's 25-year-old Nahum Martinez Vidal whom crews are looking for. Maria Martinez said she is Vidal's sister. "He liked everybody. He wanted to be friends with everybody, he was a real Christian guy," Maria Martinez said through a translator.

The Martinez's tell me this recovery effort is weighing on this family. "It's something you can't explain. It's hard. She [doesn't] wish it on nobody else or nobody's family," said Maria Martinez through a translator.

That's why they're asking for prayers and hope it's not the outcome officials believe it to be. "They don't know what to do now. They just waiting and waiting and don't know what to do, and they need everybody they can to help," said Martinez through a translator.

Greene County deputies told us this is their first drowning report of the year.

Officials said anytime you are swimming in a river, you should always wear a lifejacket.