Search for missing Wynne officer shifts to recovery effort

WYNNE (Times-Herald) - A high tech sonar device is being used to assist in the search for Wynne police officer and Cross County Auxiliary Deputy Nick Swink who police believe fell into the St. Francis River.

Area law enforcement and emergency officials have been searching for Swink, 24, since Friday night when he accidentally fell into the river from a bridge on St. Francis County Road 1004.

According to Cross County Sheriff J.R. Smith, the search for Swink has shifted from a rescue effort to a recovery effort with officials from the Missouri Highway Patrol using side scan sonar to search the river for Swink's body.

"It was difficult, but we have notified the family that this is now a recovery effort. The Missouri Highway Patrol offered to assist us and brought in a side sonar to search the area. They were here yesterday. The equipment can scan the river and give us very detailed information," said Smith.

Side scan sonar systems are designed to take near photo-like images of the bottom of bodies of water aiding in the recovery of drowning victims.

Area law enforcement and emergency officials were called about 10:30 p.m. Friday after the accident, and officials from several area agencies have been searching for the officer since that time. The search had to be halted early Saturday morning due to weather conditions, and Smith said rain and the rising river have made the search more difficult.

"The rain has been the biggest issue, but it hasn't stopped us from searching for him. We can deal with the cold we've had the last couple of days and the sleet hasn't been too bad, but when it's raining it soaks into your clothes and just makes things that much more difficult," said Smith. "The water levels have also made things more difficult because the river has risen several feet since we started searching for him Friday night."

Swink worked for the Wynne Police Department for four years and was scheduled to soon start working as a full-time deputy with the Cross County Sheriff's Department. Smith said no plans have been set for a memorial service at this time.

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