Tuesday, March 11, 1997
Falmouth death toll likely to rise
Lack of missing persons list frustrates officials

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH, Ky. - The death toll from the Licking River's floodwaters likely will rise above five, Pendleton County's disaster emergency services (DES) director warned Monday.

''With the mass tragedy we had here, five deaths is an unrealistically low number,'' DES Director Craig Peoples said. ''You have to believe you are going to have some more.''

If there are more dead, Mr. Peoples wants to find them soon. He has asked the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department and the National Guard for helicopters to be used in nighttime sweeps with an infrared imaging system that can detect heat given off by decomposing bodies.

A state Fish and Wildlife search team found the body of Jerry Beyersdoerfer, 26, stuck in flotsam at the end of North Liberty Street on Sunday.

Not knowing how many people are truly missing is causing problems and frustrating officials, Mr. Peoples said.

The American Red Cross has a list of between 300 and 400 people who are unaccounted for. Mr. Peoples said more than half the names on the list are fine.

''I can't get the Red Cross to break it down for me to show just the missing,'' Mr. Peoples said.

Red Cross spokeswoman Michele Bayer said the Red Cross doesn't keep a missing persons list. ''It's really up to the law enforcement folks to do that,'' she said.

Names listed with the Red Cross come from family members who ask the Red Cross for help in finding relatives living in affected areas.

''They come to us and say they can't get a hold of someone and ask us to contact the person and tell the person to call their family,'' Ms. Bayer said. ''It's a confidential thing.''

Mr. Peoples said he will try to eliminate persons who are safe from the list.

City officials also are working to restore services. Mobile units will house the police department, and ATK North America has donated part of its office space to serve as a temporary City Hall.

Mobile trailers will be used for county offices as well.

''We want to try to bring some normalcy back to life here,'' Falmouth Councilman Anthony Strong said. ''But what's needed most now is laundry detergent, rubber gloves and rubber boots.''

Knowing more of their neighbors might be dead didn't stop residents from volunteering cleanup help Monday.

Teresa Wilson and her daughter Emily took Jim Fossett up on his offer. Sitting in the driveway of his mother's home at 404 Maple, Mr. Fossett held a sign: Need help cleaning basement. Will pay.

''We just started walking down the street because we felt worthless at home and we saw the sign,'' said Emily, 12.

Mr. Fossett, a magistrate from Butler, grew up in the home. He couldn't help lift the heavy chairs and tables because of a respiratory problem. His mother, Kyra Stith, is 93 and with family in Frankfort.

The two-story, cream-colored home was built in 1937, just after the big floods of that year.

The Wilsons, who live at 501 Maple, weren't the only ones to see the sign. Cheryl Blau, 36, of Fort Thomas took the day off from her job with Procter & Gamble Co. to volunteer her time. Another man wouldn't give his name, saying he didn't need recognition for doing what needs to be done.

Jacob Hart, 10, was there, too, in town while his father, Philip, worked for the local emergency service crew.

''We're not taking any pay,'' Mrs. Wilson said. ''No way.''