POINT PLEASANT — A Letart man has been identified as the drowning victim at Riverfront Park on Saturday during the annual Mothman Festival.
The body of James Grueser, 59, was recovered just off the side of the concrete dock where he reportedly was seen willingly jumping into the Ohio River by several witnesses.
Point Pleasant Police Chief Joe Veith said the drowning appears to be accidental. Sgt. J.D. Reynolds of the Point Pleasant Police Department is the lead investigator on the case.
Witnesses gathered in the amphitheater for the children’s pageants at the Mothman Festival, described a man in his 50s or 60s with long hair, jumping into the river at about 11 a.m., just below the large shelter, past where the pageant was actually taking place. In fact, it was Pageant Director Delyssa Edmonds who alerted Butch Bonecutter, an employee with the City of Point Pleasant, that witnesses reported seeing the man go in but not re-emerge. Witnesses also spotted his cap on the water, but no sign of the victim.
Bonecutter called the Point Pleasant Police Department, which alerted the Point Pleasant Fire Department, Mason County EMS and the Mason County Sheriff’s Department — the latter of which assisted in the investigation.
After roping off a portion of the amphitheater, the search began near where the man was last seen with boats from both the Point Pleasant Fire Department and Gallipolis Fire Department dragging the river. Divers from the Point Pleasant Police Department were also called to the scene, which included Veith who said there was about four feet of visibility in the water. A little over an hour after crews began searching, the man’s body was located near where he was last seen jumping in. The entire park was then evacuated just prior to Grueser’s remains being recovered.
The man reportedly jumped into the river at least once before jumping in the final time. Prior to the drowning, Bonecutter advised the man that there was to be no swimming at the park and to refrain from jumping in again. The city posted “No Swimming” signs at the park some time ago. Grueser appeared to leave his boots, a cane and other belongings at Riverfront Park before going into the water.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.