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Tampa man's body found 17 days after he drowned while rafting

A 17-day effort to retrieve the body of a Tampa man who drowned in a whitewater rafting accident last month in South Carolina ended successfully Friday morning, authorities said.

Thomas P. Hill, 50, fell from a raft June 19 into the Chattooga River and drowned after apparently getting stuck in rocks. Hill, a father of four, was a sales manager for Sherwin-Williams, and he'd been rafting on a company retreat.

Rescue authorities in the area — about 100 miles west of Greenville, near the Georgia state line — worked to retrieve his body, which they were initially unable to reach because of high water levels. Hill's body was washed farther down the river while authorities waited for the water levels to recede.

More than 30 agencies contributed to the effort, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which eventually had to use sonar during the search, finally pulled Hill from the water around 11:30 a.m. Friday.

"Since this effort began, our main objective has been to safely recover Mr. Hill," Forest Service spokeswoman Michelle Burnett said. "Every day, Mr. Hill's family has been foremost in our minds and our hearts go out to Mr. Hill's wife and his children. We hope that our efforts will finally bring some closure to the Hill family."

Tampa man's body found 17 days after he drowned while rafting 07/05/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 5, 2013 10:48pm]
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