Missing children found dead in Lewisburg eddy

LEWISBURG - More than a dozen volunteer firefighters - along with teams of divers - from Lycoming County took part in all-day search Monday for two children whose bodies were recovered in the Susquehanna River about 5:30 p.m.

Cadaver dogs - animals trained to detect dead bodies - were instrumental in leading divers to an area several hundred feet south of the Route 45 bridge, where the bodies of the two children were located, Capt. Jeremy Frantz, a diver from the Independent Hose Co. in Jersey Shore, told the Sun-Gazette late Monday night.

Police say 11-year-old Assunda Rotolo of Lewisburg, and 8-year-old Leslie Davis Jr. of Mifflinburg were last seen about 7 p.m. Sunday, telling family members they were going to the river, the Associated Press reported. The two were reported missing two hours later.

Rescue crews searched the area until 11:30 p.m. Sunday and then resumed about 8 a.m. Monday. In addition to the Independent Hose Co., boats and divers from Muncy, Clinton Township, and Woodward Township were among Lycoming County emergency responders to join the exhaustive search.

"In some places, the water was dark and murky while in other areas it was clear," Frantz said.

At least a dozen search boats from Union, Northumberland and Lycoming counties searched the river in sections, beginning at the Route 45 bridge and extending south four to six miles, Frantz said.

"Firefighters also did shoreline searches," Frantz said.

A state police helicopter also assisted in looking for the two children.

Six divers from Clinton Township and one from Milton first recovered the girl and then the boy "less than five minutes later," township Fire Chief Todd Winder said.

"A dog on one of the boats reacted near a bunch of trees in the water," Winder said. "Our divers checked the whole area, but we didn't find anything among the trees. We decided to go along the entire shoreline," he added.

As the divers, now working in two teams, searched what Winder called "an open eddy" about 25 feet from the shore, they found the bodies in close proximity to one another in water that was about five to eight feet deep.

"It's a terrible ending," Winder, a father of three elementary school-age children, said.

"I can't imagine the heartache that the families are going through," he said. He hoped that the families would have some peace knowing that the children's bodies were recovered.

Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley told the Sun-Gazette late Monday night that he ruled the children's deaths accidental due to "fresh water drowning."

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