RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While local government policy listed on the City of Richmond’s website says anyone seeking to be on the James River when the river level exceeds 9-feet must retain a permit – a water depth federal officials have listed the James reached at the time of a Memorial Day dam accident – several sources tell 8News the city policy may no longer be in effect.
The new questions come after 12 people went over Bosher’s Dam on the Richmond and Henrico County line Monday afternoon.
While ten people were rescued, authorities have been unable to locate two women involved in the incident as of Tuesday night.
It is unknown if the group retained a permit to be in the high water, or if Richmond City Hall still enforces the policy. And if the requirement is no longer in effect, why does it remain listed on the city’s website.
Communications representatives did not immediately respond to 8News’ request for comment Tuesday evening, though the request was made after regular business hours.
A first responder heard over emergency scanner traffic obtained by 8News from the frightening afternoon said, “One person above the dam that may have been with the group. I’m trying to see if I can see anyone clinging onto the rafts out here.”
Less than two minutes later, the voice is heard saying, “I can see all the rafts, I cannot see if there’s anyone with the rafts. They are all jumbled up in here.”
Chesterfield’s Sarah Erway and Henrico’s Lauren Winstead, are still nowhere to be found after vanishing at the low head dam.
Chesterfield Parks and Recreation’s Director of Programming, Greg Velzy, said, “it’s near impossible,” to swim out of the rotating current at the bottom of low head dams.
“If you sort of get lucky if you get flushed down to the very bottom there’s a jet of water that comes out from there. But, if you wash, when you resurface there’s what’s called a boil line, and it just looks like boiling water. And, some of that boil line is feeding back up towards the face of the dam,” he said, which is reflected by information from the National Weather Service.
Velzy also trains residents looking to learn how to paddleboard, the same type of flotation devices found stuck at the dam. He added he plans to meet with his team this week to push for new signage near the Robious Boat Launch in Chesterfield to signify high water levels and of the dam downstream.
Authorities told 8News they will resume the search for the missing women Wednesday after 7 a.m.
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