By BISHOP NASH
BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — The body of a Marshall University student has been recovered three-and-a-half days after he fell from a bridge on Interstate 64 nearly 100 feet into the Guyandotte River, Barboursville Police Chief Mike Coffey confirmed Tuesday.
Mitchell Higgins, 22, of Sistersville, West Virginia, left his vehicle after a single-vehicle accident on I-64 near the Merritt Creek exit early Saturday and fell over the bridge’s shoulder barriers into the Guyandotte River, Coffey said. Higgins’ body was found around 2 p.m. Tuesday in the river near the 5500 block of Guyan River Road, around a mile downriver from where he’s believed to have fallen.
The accident happened around 4 a.m. Saturday when Higgins lost control on the bridge at the 17 mile-marker of I-64 westbound, striking the right barrier then left barriers before coming to rest at the middle of the bridge, according to a truck driver behind the wreck who provided eyewitness reports as well as dash cam footage to police.
Given that the bridge spans Guyan River Road, the railroad and wooded areas as well as the river and the darkness of the night, Coffey said there was no indication a jump into the river was preplanned. Higgins had no criminal record and no illegal goods were found inside the car that would prompt him to flee, Coffey added.
Barboursville police were able to respond to the wreck in less than one minute, Coffey said, but found only the abandoned car and the truck driver on scene. The search for Higgins’ body began within an hour early Saturday and continued nearly constantly up and down the Guyandotte River each day.
Falling water levels, which had decreased by three feet since Saturday, likely led to the discovery despite continual and dangerous recovery efforts. Crews picked through precarious debris piles as big as houses and freezing water temperatures all weekend. It was an estimated 14 degrees outside when the search began early Saturday, not to mention the unique hazards of the Guyandotte River.
“There’s a lot of things in the water that people don’t realize. There’s cars, car parts, tires, huge debris piles that we have a hard time navigating through,” said Chase Lusher, coordinator and paramedic for Cabell County EMS’s disaster and immediate response team, which worked the recovery effort since the beginning along with the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Department. “We tried to make good, educated decisions based on our experience and the experience level of the guys.”
See more from The Herald Dispatch