Body of Flood Victim Identified - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

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Body of Flood Victim Identified

Posted: Updated:
Captain Rick Boatwright with the fire department’s USAR team is the first to go in. Captain Rick Boatwright with the fire department’s USAR team is the first to go in.
Lieutenant Terry Knowles is the second firefighter to go in and assist with the search.  Lieutenant Michael Davenport (left) and Captain Rusty Rymer (right) provide logistical support. Lieutenant Terry Knowles is the second firefighter to go in and assist with the search. Lieutenant Michael Davenport (left) and Captain Rusty Rymer (right) provide logistical support.
Senior Firefighter Bobby Morgan and Captain Chris Warren with the USAR  team (wearing the green haz-mat suits) crawl through an opening to begin their search for the body of Mr. Kitchens under 23rd Street Wednesday.  They did not find anything. Senior Firefighter Bobby Morgan and Captain Chris Warren with the USAR team (wearing the green haz-mat suits) crawl through an opening to begin their search for the body of Mr. Kitchens under 23rd Street Wednesday. They did not find anything.
Kitchens' body was discovered Thursday near Rossville Blvd and 23rd Street Kitchens' body was discovered Thursday near Rossville Blvd and 23rd Street

UPDATED FRIDAY 4:20 p.m.

Fire officials have identified the body that was found Thursday morning in a drainage ditch near I-24 East at Rossville Boulevard.

Officials tell us the body has been confirmed to be that of Sylvester Kitchens Jr.  He was 46. 

That determination was made public this afternoon by the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office.  

Kitchens drowned last Sunday after being swept into a flooded culvert at 2310 E. 14th Street.

UPDATED THURSDAY 10:32 a.m.

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - A spokesman for the Chattanooga Fire Department tells Channel 3 Eyewitness News they have receovered the body of a Chattanooga man, missing since going for a swim in flood waters on Sunday night.

Crews found the body of Sylvester Kitchens Jr. near Rossville Boulevard and 23rd Street on Thursday morning.

Two employees with the city's public works division found the body Thursday morning around 10:00 in the vicinity of a drainage ditch near the on-ramp to I-24 East off of Rossville Boulevard.  The employees have been assisting Chattanooga firefighters in their search for Kitchens.

Updated Wednesday 5 p.m.

Chattanooga Fire officials tell us they have not yet recovered the body of Sylvester Kitchens Jr.

Officials tell us the Chattanooga Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team searched a culvert that ran underneath 23rd Street.  After making their way about the length of the culvert, which is about 400 feet, and checking some other areas along the drainage ditch, the search was called off for the day. 

Tactical Services Chief Danny Hague said a decision will be made later today on other options that might be explored as the search continues.

Updated Wednesday 11:50 a.m.

The Chattanooga Fire Department resumed its search Wednesday morning for the body of Sylvester Kitchens Jr.

Members of the Chattanooga Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) wore protective clothing and air packs and crawled 600 feet through a storm drain that runs underneath the playground and parking lot at Eastside Elementary School on Main Street.  Nothing was found. 

City public works crews used their remote-controlled camera to search another underground section nearby. Altogether, they searched approximately 1,200 feet of the culvert.

They plan to search another underground section at the intersection of 23rd Street and Kelly Street Wednesday afternoon.

Updated Monday 5 p.m.

Already, the flooding in Chattanooga has turned deadly.  46-year-old Sylvester Kitchens is presumed dead.  He was swept away by flood waters Sunday night.  Kitchens and a friend were clinging to a fence when rescue crews arrived at the scene off East 14th Street.  Albert Miller, who jumped in to save Kitchens, was rescued.

Late Monday afternoon, the Chattanooga Fire Department said Chattanooga Public Works is helping them monitor culverts and drainage ditches.

The victim's nephew gave Eyewitness News a stunning account of what he saw when his uncle was swept away.

"He jumped in just trying to show us he could swim," Kitchen's nephew, Sylvester Kitchens, told Eyewitness News.  "His last words were 'If I can't make it out of this, I'm not a real swimmer.'  He was just trying to show us he could swim."

That bold move, sadly, proved deadly.  Townsend watched in horror as rushing flood waters carried his uncle, Sylvester Kitchens, away.

"I jumped in behind him," Albert Miller told Eyewitness News.  "I picked him up and put him on the fence, but he couldn't hold on.  I was about to not be able to hold on, but I just held on, because I knew they were coming."

The firefighters were coming, but it took them some time because nearby streets were washed out.  The two men clung to a fence for 20 minutes, but it was too much for Kitchens.  Miller watched helplessly as his friend drowned.

Miller added, "I told him hold on 'hold on, hold on,' but then he started going up under, and I couldn't grab him.  I could barely hold up myself."

The current is still so strong, firefighters can't do an extensive search for Kitchens body.  It could be days until it's safe enough to go back into the culvert.  Even now, Miller can't believe he made it out alive.

Firefighters hope to resume their extensive search Tuesday or Wednesday.

UPDATED 11:45AM MONDAY

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The man swept away into a culvert Sunday night has been identified as Sylvester Kitchens. Beginning with Live at 5pm, we'll talk with the man who escaped with his life.

UPDATED 10AM MONDAY

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chattanooga fire officials say the Monday morning rain is hampering efforts to resume the search for the man who was swept into a culvert Sunday night. 

 The plan was to have rescue personnel physically get into the culverts and storm water pipes where they can, and also use video cameras to search more inaccessible areas.  Right now, the culverts are still full of water, so not much can be done until conditions improve.

Meanwhile Chattanooga Police are asking that people stay away from 23rd Street and not cross the barricades meant to block access to flooded areas.

UPDATED 11:20PM SUNDAY

FT. OGLETHORPE, GA (WRCB) -- Ft Oglethorpe police advise a number of major roads in their city are flooded. They ask that people not travel through the area Sunday evening.

UPDATED 10:20 PM SUNDAY

Catoosa County, GA schools will be closed on Monday because of flooding.

By David Carroll

dcarroll@wrcbtv.com

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- This just in to the Channel 3 Eyewitness Newsroom, from Chattanooga Fire Dept. Public Information Officer Bruce Garner:

As another severe thunderstorm swept through the area this afternoon, Chattanooga firefighters and other rescue personnel were out responding to reports of stranded motorists at numerous locations.  Around 6:00 p.m., they received a call about two men who were hanging onto a chain link fence in danger of drowning.

Firefighters with Engine 5 and Ladder 5 arrived at 2310 E. 14th Street and saw one man hanging on to a fence.  Eyewitnesses identified the man as Albert Miller, and his legs dangled precariously in the rushing water at the entrance to a flooded culvert.  Two medics with Hamilton County EMS were already there, trying to reach Mr. Miller, but they were unable to pull him away from the culvert. 

Firefighter Richard Yarber and Captain Dean Rogers with Engine 5 tied a rope to a floatation ring and got it to Mr. Miller.  When Mr. Miller managed to get the ring around this torso, the firefighters were able to pull him to safety.  Mr. Miller, said to be in his mid-40s, was transported by Hamilton County EMS to a local hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia.  At the time of this release, his condition was still being assessed, but firefighters said his injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.  Senior Firefighters John Meadows and Kyle Duggan with Engine 5 also assisted with the rescue, along with personnel with Volunteer State Water Rescue.

The other man, said to be in his mid-30s, is presumed lost.  He was holding on to the fence like Mr. Miller, but when a neighbor tried to rescue him by throwing a garden hose over to him, the victim reportedly tried to grab the hose.  As he reached for the hose, eyewitnesses said the powerful current pulled him down into the flooded culvert.  The victim's identity is being withheld until all relatives have been notified.

Battalion Chief Mike Knox said firefighters and other rescue personnel will continue to search for the victim.  While this incident was taking place, Chief Knox said other firefighters pulled six people out of flooded vehicles in the same general area.

Chattanooga Police Dept. Lt. Kim Noorbergen also shared this information:

CPD are also investigating a DOA at 3401 Campbell St. At this time the cause of death is unknown and the no other details are available.

Also several areas in the city are flooding and roadways have been closed, barricades are up and we are asking citizens to abide by these barricades.

Brainerd and East Brainerd area:

Miller Dr @ Eastgate Loop

4612 Conner St

Standifer Gap @ Hickory Valley Rd

7356 Lee Hwy

900 Airport Rd

2200 Tunnel Blvd

6700 Bonny Oaks Dr

4100 Hwy 153 @ Shallowford Rd South Bound

East Chatta / Highland Park and East Lake:

400-2100 Roanoke Ave

500 North Orchard Knob

400-2200 Dodson Ave   (people were evacuated from cars and residences, no injuries reported)

3500 Amnicola Hwy North

23rd St @ Hickory St

Hixson and N Chatt:

1800 Hamill Rd

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