Missing swimmers found, one by rescuers, one at home - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Missing swimmers found, one by rescuers, one at home

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Another river search has ended with a rescue. A couple is okay after an early morning swim.

But the man is facing charges and police are more than frustrated with the young woman who was with him
 
Police say 40-year-old William Toner and 27-year-old Ashley Smart shouldn't have been in the river in the first place. A security guard had spotted them near the south docks by the Market Street Bridge.

Was it a late night swim, or a getaway? Officials say it's not clear.

What is clear: the hours, time, and manpower--officers say they wasted.

Search boats, the Sheriff's office, the SWAT team and Chattanooga firefighters.  More than two dozen officers on land and on the water, after the call came in just before one in the morning.

"The current here is so fast, you have just a split second before you're gone," said Spencer Heselton. Aboard his parent's houseboat at Ross' Landing, the ruckus woke up the 17-year-old.

Officers would borrow one of their friend's speedboats to rescue Toner.

"Another two or three minutes, that guy would have been dead," Heselton said. "He did look in pretty bad shape, more intoxicated with something, at first he did not cooperate with the police.

Police say that's why they've charged Toner with disorderly conduct, public intoxication and three counts of recklessly endangering his rescuers.

Channel 3 found him at home, just after noon. But he and a woman companion pulled away in their cars when we tried to talk to them.

Spencer says he and rescuers last saw Ashley bobbing near a bridge pier about 50 yards from the south dock, before she disappeared. They would find her at her home, safe and sound, more than five hours later.

How and where she got out, they're not entirely sure.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd says Ashley Smart wasn't cooperative at first, but finally told them what happened.

She's not facing charges…yet.

But all the effort, overnight and in daylight?

"I'm certainly willing to go forward and charge them or make them responsible for the costs at this point," said Chief Dodd.

If only, he says, to send a larger message.

"This is a no-swimming area," Dodd notes. "It's dangerous enough in daylight. But to do it at one or two a.m., jumping in the murky black water, is just stupid."

Police believe Toner and Smart had been partying in one of the downtown bars before their post-midnight dip.

Yesterday was Toner's birthday. Smart's birthday is tomorrow.

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