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A Summers County man drowned in the Bluestone River Saturday while fishing with a friend, authorities said.

Chief Ranger Gary Hartley of the New River Gorge National River identified the victim as Michael Keith Jennings, 29, of Jumping Branch.

The incident was reported around 4:50 p.m. Saturday. Jennings and a friend, Jumping Branch resident Robert Harvey, were “float fishing” on the Bluestone River near Lilly, Hartley said. Jennings was riding on an inner-tube, following Harvey. Harvey was riding on a raft.

Farther downstream, the two became separated, Hartley said. When Harvey got out of the water, he looked for Jennings — but he only saw the inner-tube. From the river’s bank, Harvey searched for his friend and yelled for him. He then went to his car and called 911 from a cell phone.

Fourteen public safety agencies and 47 rescuers descended on the area, Hartley said. The search for Jennings was suspended at dark, but it resumed Sunday morning. Divers recovered Jennings’ body at the bottom of a large pool at 1:45 p.m. Sunday.

Hartley noted responders searched in periodic rain and storms, but weather conditions when Jennings drowned are unknown. The Bluestone River is higher than normal because of recent rain. :angelwings:
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