Chattanooga, Hamilton County crews search for 2 boys in South Chickamauga Creek

Chattanooga, Hamilton County crews search for 2 boys in South Chickamauga Creek

September 23rd, 2013 by Jeff LaFave in Local Regional News

On the scene:

Chattanooga Police Department

Chattanooga Fire Department

Hamilton County Sheriff's Department

Hamilton County Swift Water Rescue

Hamilton County S.T.A.R.S.

Hamilton County EMS

Hamilton County E911

Hamilton County Rehabilitation

Chattanooga Housing Authority

A rescue boat sits ready near the Cromwell Hills Apartments were Chattanooga police and rescuers are mounting a search for two missing children who are feared missing in South Chickamauga Creek.

Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Times Free Press.

Police divers were searching South Chickamauga Creek on Sunday night for two 11-year-old boys who went swimming and didn't come out.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said more than 60 officers were searching along the creek's banks and checking buildings. Nightfall forced the divers to drop their search for Kentory Ray and Thomas Ruffin.

Neighbors gathered in driveways on Juniper Avenue to talk of the boys' disappearance. Some sat on the curb in disbelief, holding back tears.

Scores of police cars and emergency vehicles lined the nearby Cromwell Hills apartment complex into the night, as darkness fell and flashlights turned on.

"We're hoping they got out somewhere along the bank and that we'll locate them in the neighborhood," Dodd said. "The only light would be the moonlight, and it's not lit up well out here."

Kentory and Thomas, who live at the Chattanooga Housing Authority complex off Cromwell Road, went to the creek with two friends Sunday afternoon. The other two boys stayed on the bank, but Kentory and Thomas got into the water, Dodd said. After a strong southbound current carried them away, their friends ran to call 911. The call came in at 4:30 p.m., he said.

Dodd said there was no indication that the boys had drowned as of Sunday night.

"They did not seem to be struggling and were still above water," Dodd said. "They got into the water intentionally, so we do not think it was a situation where they accidentally fell in."

A torrent of rainfall on Saturday created less-than-favorable swimming conditions at the creek, but Dodd said the boys might have been able to exit at a "choke point" that catches debris.

"The current's pretty rapid," Dodd said. "It's not a good area to swim in, and most of the area you can't even pass."

Shanika Eady, 38, lives in the complex and sees the "energetic" neighbor boys with regularity.

"They were just over to our house last night," Eady said.

Eady is closer to Thomas and his mother, and she is proud of what he is doing as a new student at Tyner Middle School.

"He kept on point with his schoolwork," Eady said. "He wants to play basketball, and he just got himself a little girlfriend last week."

Dodd said all the apartments in the Cromwell Hills complex have been checked but officers are looking in other structures close to the creek.

Police set up a command center near the apartment complex, as Dodd said the search would continue into the night.

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.