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Body of missing man found

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The body of 35-year-old Brian Smith from Thomasville was recovered Monday morning from the Flint River, authorities said.

Ron McMillan, an investigator with the Baker County Sheriff's Office, said authorities do not suspect foul play and are treating Smith's death as an accident.

"Autopsy results from Atlanta could be in as soon as tomorrow and at the latest Wednesday," the investigator said. "We will know more once those results are in."

The recovery of Smith's body concluded a two-day search for Smith who was reported missing Saturday afternoon after local boaters found his abandoned boat drifting in the Flint River.

Ron McMillan and investigators with the Baker County Sheriff's Office said when they reached the river and the boat they were able to locate items within the boat that led to the identification of Smith.

"We found identification and papers that led us to understanding that Mr. Smith was the owner of the boat," said McMillan during a telephone interview with a Herald reporter.

Also in Smith's boat were a camera, a handgun and Smith's wallet.

Around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, a search was launched to find Smith. Search crews reportedly worked until around 10 p.m. Saturday and then resumed their search Sunday morning. Sunday's search continued until 9 p.m. with several agencies working to find Smith.

Baker County officials said Monday that a helicopter from the Georgia State Patrol was used in the search to try and locate Smith. Agents with the Department of Natural Resources, law enforcement personnel from Baker, Mitchell and Decatur counties and dive teams from Thomasville and other local search and rescue crews were taking part in the search.

McMillan said two fishermen contacted police around 7:30 a.m. Monday with news they had found Smith's body north of Norman's Ferry Landing in Baker County.

Fishermen Bennie Lee Wester and Winston "Sonny" Kelly showed authorities where Smith was located. The 35-year-old's body was lodged in between two rocks about a quarter of a mile away from where Smith's abandoned boat was discovered.

Authorities said Smith had no diving or snorkeling equipment on him when he was found.

Smith was a salesman for Tidewater Equipment Company in Thomasville, a forestry equipment dealer. Co-workers said Monday that Smith had been with the company for 10 years.

"He grew up in Boston, Ga., and he was an outdoors person. He loved to hunt and fish," said Tidewater Equipment employee Becky Cheney.

Cheney said Smith, a bachelor, possessed a "really outgoing personality" and would go above and beyond to please his customers.

Smith's co-workers said the 35-year-old's death comes as a shock and that the salesman was very comfortable in the outdoors.

"This is like a shock for all of us," Cheney said. "I just can't believe it. It was normal for him to go (to the river) by himself and he knew his surroundings well."