Frantic 911 caller helped officials find Middletown man who drowned in Great Miami River

A Middletown man died Tuesday night when he drowned in the Great Miami River while swimming.

Crews were called for a possible drowning at about 5:30 p.m. and recovered Fritznel Antoine Dean body four hours later.

The Butler County Coroner’s Office ruled the 27-year-old man’s cause of death as an accidental drowning.

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Boats were launched into the water in the area around the north part of Verity Parkway and Access 2 on a report of a man who was swimming across the river and never resurfaced, police said.

The body was discovered about 9:30 p.m., according to Shelby Quinlivan, city spokesperson.

A frantic, out-of-breath man called 911. Boat units from Franklin and Middletown police were dispatched while officials questioned the caller, trying to determine were he was located.

The caller said he drove a white car into a parking lot then went into the woods and followed a gravel trail.

“I am freaking out, I am freaking out ... I can’t see him,” the caller said, noting the man had gone into the river to swim wearing his underwear.

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The caller said he saw a mile marker 25 near the parking area. Eventually emergency units located a turn off on North Verity (Ohio 4) and the caller ran back to the roadway to flag them down.

Dispatchers warned the caller not to get in the water when he asked if he should swim after his friend.

Middletown Police Chief David Birk said the location where he man was found was near the old dam between Access 1 and Access 2 roads. It’s long way from the roadway, through woods to the river.

Birk said he is working to get the parking areas numbered so that people will know what area to reference in an emergency.

“We need to see if there is anything we can do to put post markers on the bike path. Some that are visible even if it floods,” Birk said. “I don’t know what the best solution is for that because it did take a while for our dispatch and Franklin’s dispatch to coordinate where he was."

Birk also urged those enjoying the river this summer to wear a life jacket when canoeing, kayaking or swimming.

Franklin, Monroe and Butler County Sheriff’s office water rescue units took part in the search operation.

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