The two-day search for a missing Franklin teen ended Sunday morning when his body was pulled from the base of the dam in the Big Blue River.
Dozens of search and rescue personnel searched a 100-yard stretch of the river in Edinburgh from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning when they found 17-year-old Jason Moran. Michael Chadbourne and Sarah McLevish, both 16 and from Franklin, have been in critical condition at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis since Friday.
The three teens were swimming with Trent Crabb, 17, and Mark Nally, 18, when McLevish was overtaken and swept over the dam. Moran, Chadbourne, Crabb and Nally followed McLevish, trying to help her.
For more than 19 hours, rescuers used boats, sonar and dragging equipment to search the river, which has depths ranging from 2 feet to 10 feet, Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials said.
Moran’s family and Franklin residents started working with rescue crews to search the land along the river before he was found about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. About 15 people showed up at the dam, telling rescue officials that they were going to look for Moran no matter what.
Johnson County Coroner Craig Lutz said the official cause of death for Moran was drowning.
On Sunday night, Franklin Community High School principal Doug Harter opened the school for students, family and other people to come together to remember Moran and meet with counselors. All five teens attended Franklin Community High School, and nearly 400 people attended a prayer vigil Friday at the high school. School officials had counselors available for students to talk to Saturday morning and afternoon, Harter said.
Harter wanted to be sure that people who wanted or needed to talk about Moran or the two injured teens had a place to meet, he said.
During the weekend, Franklin students and residents used social media to spread prayers and show support for the three teens. On Twitter, people used the hash tags #fightjmoneyfresh, #fightforchaddy and #fightforsarah when sharing their thoughts.
“It’ll definitely be a gap in the high school this year, without (Moran) being there,” Franklin senior A.J. Barr said.
Crabb and Nally both have been at the hospital to visit their friends, and right now their families want to be there to support Chadbourne and McLevish, Crabb’s mother Tara McGee said.
“Everybody is just kind of staying closer to each other,” she said.
Moran’s family also has requested to conduct his funeral at the high school, and today school officials will start planning for the service, Harter said. Harter also will check with the counselors again today to see what other aid or services students might need.
“The need may be greater as we go into the week,” he said.
Two hours after Moran was found Sunday, Crabb returned to the dam for about five minutes and hugged and spoke with Barr before leaving again. Moran’s friends and family members also stayed near the dam during the weekend search and insisted on helping with the search Sunday morning.
“They were asking to be there, and we cannot stop them, and we wanted to coordinate with them,” DNR Lt. Bill Browne said.
Nearly 40 members of search crews helped scour the water for Moran for about nine hours Friday, and for about 10 hours Saturday.
It was a difficult search, as some sections of the river were too shallow for sonar devices to work properly, but too deep for divers to enter until Sunday morning, DNR officer Jet Quillen and Browne said.
Heavy amounts of water were coming over the dam Friday and Saturday because of rain that fell earlier in the week, and recovery crews had to wait for the water level to drop before divers could check the base of the dam where Moran was found. If divers had checked the base of the dam earlier when more water was coming through, they could have been pinned against debris beneath the surface, officials said.
“This is probably the worst scene I’ve been on, just because of all of the characteristics of the dam. It’s just very unique,” Quillen said.
The water at the base of the dam was about 10 feet deep, and the current created a boil, which pulled Moran, McLevish and Chadbourne underwater. Chadbourne and McLevish resurfaced but weren’t breathing.
Neither teen had a pulse when Crabb and Nally got them to the shore, and a local business owner and a passer-by performed CPR until an ambulance arrived. They were taken to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis and remained in critical condition as of Sunday night.