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Police identify man who drowned in Kanawha River

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police say the man whose body was pulled from the Kanawha River Monday was Terry Wayne Forrester, a 49-year-old homeless man who lived in Charleston.

Sgt. Eric Hodges said police were familiar with Forrester, who spent most of his time on the streets in various parts of the city.

Hodges said no foul play is suspected in Forrester's death and that police believe he accidentally drowned. 

"We'll never know for sure what he was doing," Hodges said. "But I would assume it's hot weather, you go out and get cooled off in the water."

Hodges said police do not believe Forrester had any family in Charleston and they have been unable to locate next-of-kin anywhere else.

A North Charleston man taking a late-morning ride on his jet ski in the Kanawha River made the gruesome discovery Monday afternoon when Forrester's body was found floating in the water.

John Tanner, 49, was cruising on his purple Sea-Doo personal watercraft when a man came running down the steps near Haddad Riverfront Park to tell him there was something floating in the water. Tanner, a former paramedic with 20 years' experience, swung his watercraft around and went to check out the object.

There, near the foot of a new observation deck built over the riverbank, Tanner found the body of a middle-aged white man floating in the water. He wore no life vest, no shirt and no shoes. The man didn't have any visible injuries, Tanner said. 

The former emergency responder quickly fished his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 911. Kanawha County dispatchers received the call shortly after noon and immediately sent Charleston fire and police officers out to the scene.

"I told them I'm out in here in the middle of the water on a purple jet ski -- I've got a body out here and I need some help," Tanner told reporters. "When help come -- the rest of them took pretty well care of it. I just stayed close to it so they'd know where I was at."

Tanner stayed at the scene, keeping an eye out, until firefighters arrived in their red and white Sea Arc emergency boat. Firefighters removed the body from the water and brought it to the concrete levy. Emergency workers held up a white sheet to shield the scene from onlookers and the media.

The man's body was transported to the office of the state medical examiner where an autopsy was to be conducted.


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