For West Polk Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Lofty — and many residents and recovery workers in Polk and McMinn counties — Friday marked the end of a long, exhaustive search.
Searchers wading in Conasauga Creek near Delano, Tenn., Friday recovered the body of Nick Alley, the 36-year-old father of five who went missing along with two of his children three weeks ago after the canoe they were in overturned in the rain-swollen creek.
Three of Alley's children escaped the floodwaters after the boat flipped on Jan. 16, but he and two children did not survive the cold current.
The body of 6-year-old Lazarus Alley was found Jan. 24, and his 7-year-old sister Halana's remains were found five days later.
Lofty said Nick Alley's body was found in the creek at 12:35 p.m. Friday.
"He was found about 60 feet above [north of] where the first young man was found," Lofty said.
No autopsy will be performed, he said.
"We're well satisfied that with all the documentation we have so far, information provided by the bystanders and family fits the cause of death," Lofty said.
The discovery capped the department's longest recovery operation to date, Lofty said. At one point, 120 residents and recovery workers were on the shoreline, in boats and wading in dry suits, combing the creek bed.
Environmental factors -- and diligence from the community -- made the recovery possible, Lofty said.
"The water was down far enough for this top search to be done. We had canvassed this area before, using side-scan sonar, but silt and sand had obscured where he was," Lofty said.
Despite the length of the search, Lofty said the recovery will mean a great deal to Alley's family, who live in Delano, a close-knit community that includes a number of Mennonite families.
"Some cases with these instances, the silt and sand is so deep you never find them," he said.
"If we hadn't had all the resources that were brought in to help -- especially the help of the community -- we might not have found him," Lofty said.
The operation received a great deal of support from local and state governments, he said, specifically from Tri-State Mutual Aid.
Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...