Hi-tech tool to assist in river search

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Returning Tuesday to the area where a cadaver dog signaled possible contact with the remains of a missing Lee County woman, searchers unveiled a new, hi-tech tool that they hope will aid in their recovery efforts.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers brought an underwater side-scan sonar device to the Cox boat landing Tuesday in hopes of mapping the riverbottom near where they believe the body of 77-year-old Fannie Corley may be located.

The $50,000 device is used to provide detailed images of underwater areas to aid in searches for submerged people and objects, officials say.

The device is the only one of its kind at the state's disposal and requires advanced training, DNR officials said.

Tuesday afternoon, a crew of rangers headed out near the Philema Road bridge with the device and began their underwater soundings, with no immediate word of any findings.

Searchers have been combing the waters and banks around Lake Chehaw and Lake Worth searching for any sign of the missing woman. Corley's car was found abandoned on the Old Leesburg Bridge Road Christmas Eve morning.

On Monday, Tracy Sargent and her cadaver dog, Cinco, roamed the banks and then boarded a boat and cruised up and down the river. Monday afternoon, Cinco alerted her handler to a possible hit in the area near the Philema Road Bridge, prompting search and rescue officials to call in divers.

But with light fading and a current strong enough to push divers off the riverbottom, the divers were recalled and search efforts were discontinued until Tuesday morning.

Sargent also aided in the search for missing duck hunter John Slappey on Tuesday. Slappey, an Albany native, was last seen duck hunting in Lake Seminole nine days ago.

Searchers have recovered some items believed to have been Slappey's, but his body has not been found.