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Body of missing woman found

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Sparta, N.C. woman went missing after being separated from party floating river

By The Staff

By LARRY CHAMBERS
Staff

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INDEPENDENCE – The Grayson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday afternoon that the body of JoAnne Hatcher was found one mile down stream from where she went missing on Wednesday.
The search for a Sparta, N.C., woman last seen floating on a tube on the New River was ongoing from last Wednesday through Friday afternoon. Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan said about 40 rescue, EMS and other state and local personnel were searching New River below the New River Campground, about four miles south of Independence.
“A group of GCSO deputies and conservation police officers were searching the river in kayaks this morning when they made the discovery,” Vaughan confirmed Friday in an email to the Declaration.
Hatcher, 57, was last seen about 4 p.m. Wednesday floating on a tube in the river with her friends. A report from the sheriff’s office said Hatcher became separated from the group. According to the report, she could not swim and was not wearing a life jacket.
On Friday, the sheriff’s office confirmed that Hatcher’s body was found approximately one mile down stream from where she was last seen on Wednesday.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of JoAnne Hatcher. Thank you for all the prayers and to all the first responders who have worked around the clock,” read a statement from the sheriff’s office.
In an earlier statement from Sheriff Vaughan while the search was still ongoing, he confirmed that Hatcher was last seen in the area known as Moxley Ridge, she appeared to be fine and was moving the tube by splashing her hands. He said the area had some fast-moving shoals.
Conservation Officer Jason Harris found the empty tube Wednesday afternoon about a mile below the New River Campground.
Searchers found Hatcher’s cellphone floating in the river shortly before noon. It was in a plastic bag.
Hatcher and the group entered the river at Farmers Fish Camp in Alleghany County. Vaughan said New River Campground was supposed to be the get out point but she reportedly couldn’t reach the bank.
A command post was set up at Moxley Ridge; and Vaughan confirmed that searchers were looking along the bank and divers were also assisting.
A large number of agencies participated in the search and recovery, including the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office, Alleghany County Dive Team, Baywood Search & Rescue, Blacksburg Rescue, Christiansburg Fire & Rescue, Dr. Lisa Briggs (K-9s), Fries Fire & Rescue, Galax Fire Dept., Independence Fire Dept., Longshop McCoy Fire & Rescue Dive Team, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, North Carolina Department of Wildlife Resource Commission, Pulaski County Fire & Rescue Special Operations, Terry Osborne (Town of Independence), Todd Hodges (Drone), Twin County Drone Services (Brett Snow), Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and Virginia State Police, Aviation & Dive Team; Sheets, Pizza Plus, Subway, and Food City.
“It is comforting to know we have agencies who specialize in these operations to assist us. I would like to commend everyone involved in the operation for their dedication and hard work,” said Sheriff Vaughan.