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Body of Missing Deputy Found Four Days After Disappearance

Body of Missing Deputy Found Four Days After Disappearance

Associated Press

August 01, 2011

CONVERSE COUNTY, WY – The body of a Wyoming deputy who jumped in the North Platte River to assist a distressed girl was discovered Sunday.

It was the fourth day of searching for 29-year-old Bryan P. Gross, of the Converse County sheriff’s office, who was hailed as a hero for attempting to save a teenage girl who appeared to be struggling in the river Thursday evening. The girl survived, but Gross was swept away in the high-flowing North Platte River swollen by heavy snowmelt.

County Sheriff Clinton Becker said Gross’ body was found late Sunday morning in the river about a mile and a half from where Gross entered.

Searchers from several law enforcement agencies and civilian volunteers checked the banks of the river. Divers, dogs and a helicopter helped in the search. The sheriff did not describe how Gross was located.

“Anytime you go into the water like that, it’s heroic,” said Douglas Mayor Bruce Jones on Friday. “Of course to him, he’s probably just doing his job.”

Jones said the situation is hitting his town hard.

The girl entered the waterway near the Douglas Yellowstone Bridge, which joins both sides of Douglas, 50 miles east of Casper.

Gross went into the river from one side while several others swam in from the other, Undersheriff Don Schoenleber said.

Other emergency workers recovered the girl about a mile downstream Thursday evening and took her to a hospital. Schoenleber declined to identify the girl.

Steve Henning, Douglas city administrator, said the girl was 14 years old and was in town for a 4-H fair.

“She was distraught with her boyfriend, and she jumped in the river,” Henning said.

Gross worked as a Douglas police officer for a few years before recently joining the sheriff’s department.

Henning said Gross had worked at the police department as a drug officer, handling a trained dog. He added Gross had gotten married within the past month or so to a woman who worked as a receptionist for the city.

Searchers, including some using boats and aircraft including a military helicopter, worked the river by daylight, Schoenleber said. And deputies used lights to scan the water overnight to keep watch for Gross, while searchers walked the riverbank sometimes assisted by tracking dogs.

The North Platte River near Douglas is higher than normal following heavy snows last winter.

Deputy State Engineer Harry C. LaBonde said the river was running at 6,620 cubic feet per second Friday at a nearby gauging station, downstream from Douglas. He said the flow averaged only 2,110 cfs on the same date over the past 60 years.

“It’s higher than you would expect this time of year based on the water we’re having with all of the snow and the releases from all the federal reservoirs,” LaBonde said.

There have been several deaths in Wyoming this year associated with flooding and high water, including four members of a Colorado family killed earlier this month when a highway washed out in a heavy rainstorm.

President Barack Obama last week declared a major disaster in Wyoming because of spring and summer flooding. The declaration opened the way for the federal government to help the state pay for costs incurred from damaged roads, highways and other infrastructure.

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