Search continues in Ohio River for Justin Hearn


More than a week after 21-year old Justin Hearn disappeared in the Ohio River while hunting with two friends, officials with the Indiana Conservation Service and the Kentucky Conservation Service continue their efforts to locate the Worthville, Kentucky man’s body.

“We tried to go back out today and look more closely at some points of interest that we found on the sonar yesterday,” Indiana Conservation officer Chris Powell said Tuesday. “We scanned several, then located them, and then put a remote operational vehicle, which takes video and different things, into the water, and verified that those points of interest weren’t him.”

Chris Powell said that officers also went back to the location of the sunken boat, and determined on Monday night to try and put some divers into the river to go down to the boat, but the recent winter storms have halted that effort for now.

“Weather hit and we couldn’t get divers to the ramp to do a dive operation,” Chris Powell said. “We want to eliminate the boat.”

Chris Powell said that if Justin Hearn’s body is not in the boat, then unfortunately the search efforts will pretty much be at an end until the weather warms the river.

“We know he’s not downstream from the boat,” Chris Powell said, “Because of the buoyancy issues and weather, we are just looking at all options, continuing with the boat.”

But getting to the boat isn’t that easy.

Officer Powell said that officials located the boat during the first day of sonar operations which would have been last Tuesday. The boat went straight down where the incident occurred, and officers know through sonar and GPS measurements that the boat is 47.6-feet of water, 786-feet off of the Indiana bank of the Ohio River – about one-third of the way across the river.

“We search until we find a point of interest, then we enter the GPS information,” Chris Powell said. “With those coordinates, we can go back on the plotter and measure back to the shore or to other points of interest.”

Officer Powell said that there is reason to believe that the boat is inverted, lying upside down on the river floor. He said that officers want to check that area and make sure that Justin Hearn didn’t get tangled with the boat as it sank.

Because of the depth of the water that the boat is in, Chris Powell said that there is no visibility at the boat site, so divers will conduct their search by ‘feel’, doing a ‘black water dive’.

If Justin Hearn is not at the boat site, officers said that there are no plans to bring the boat to the surface.

“We just want to do what we can to help bring closure for the family,” Officer Powell said.