Wednesday, January 7, 1998
Pro divers added to search
Officials begin considering when to give up

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mike Partin
COVINGTON, Ky. - Frustrated by a fruitless around-the-clock search for the body of a Covington police officer, the city brought in professional divers Tuesday.

Dozens of mourning firefighters and police officers have stood watch at the Waterfront restaurant since Officer Mike Partin fell from the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

But on the third day, the question loomed as to when the search might end.

''We understand that there are some limits to what we are doing,'' Assistant Covington Police Chief Bill Dorsey said Tuesday afternoon. ''But we're not ready to discuss that yet.''

Assistant City Manager Tom Steidel said he and City Manager Greg Jarvis have begun thinking about when to call off the search. But he said that would not be done until everyone involved agrees it's time to quit.

Getting that consensus might be difficult, given that officials have even had trouble persuading volunteer searchers and helpers to leave the site to rest. Covington Fire Chief Joe Heringhaus was among those who had to be ordered home, Lt. Col. Dorsey said.

The new divers, of Aquarius Marine Inc. in Ludlow, took to the Ohio River in enclosed metal helmets that protected their heads from the incredible amounts of debris in the water. Tethered to a barge parked near the pier where Officer Partin fell, the divers took down cameras.

The biggest chunks of unnatural debris are likely pieces of the C&O Bridge, predecessor to the Clay Wade Bailey, which was blown into the water in 1970 in preparation for its successor, which opened in 1974. Much of that steel was dredged out of the water, but not all of it, said Ken Crawford, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville.

The Corps only commits to making sure the river has a navigable channel 9 feet deep, he said, and that generally is down the middle of the water.

Officer Partin's body is believed to be amid dense debris outside that channel, he said.

Divers have been struggling against the river's current, Lt. Col. Dorsey said. A 200-pound man had to add 80 pounds of weight to himself just to keep steady against the moving water.

Officials waited several hours Tuesday for a piece of sonar equipment from the Corps of Engineers that would hang on the edge of a boat and show a more comprehensive picture of the river bottom. But dense fog rolled back across the water before nightfall, leading officials to predict that they would have to call off the search until morning.

The man Officer Partin was helping chase, Shawnta Robertson, 20, of Cincinnati, is scheduled to appear in court in Covington on Thursday. He is charged with possession of marijuana and driving under the influence.

The chase began when Kenton County Police Officer Brian Kane stopped Mr. Robertson for a traffic violation. Mr. Robertson ran from Officer Kane, who called for help. Officer Partin drove past the two running on the bridge. Trying to head the suspect off, he parked his cruiser and was trying to jump onto the walkway when he fell through a gap between it and the road.

As the search continued, support for Officer Partin's family and the rest of the Covington Police Department continued to be displayed in various ways throughout the community. Visitors to the Northern Kentucky police memorial came in a steady stream Tuesday morning.

And a new message popped up on a sign outside the SuperAmerica at the Fifth Street exit: ''We support our local police.''

Tuesday's report

Officer's family grieves at river
Bridge gap has a purpose
Borgman cartoon
Police keep taking risks for our sake Karen Samples column

Monday's report

What happened(118k gif)
Search fails to find officer
Tristate police suffer another blow
Rookie looked, acted like vet