Search for missing tuber along New River likely now recovery mission

Crews have found her inner tube, cellphone

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

GRAYSON COUNTY, Va. - A multi-state search for a missing woman continues after she floated away while tubing on the New River.

Rescuers have some hope but they're expecting the worst, especially given the river's conditions.

They've found the Jo Anne Collins Hatcher's inner tube and her cellphone and now their mission is to find her body.

Baywood Search and Rescue volunteer Diana Murphy said they're fighting tough conditions on the New River in the search for Hatcher.

Investigators said she was tubing with a friend Wednesday on the New River in Grayson County when she missed her get-off point at the New River Campground and floated away without a life jacket.

Her friend tried to swim after her "but she said that when she started to, the water just kept raising. She said that her friend just went on," said Murphy.

Hatcher's friend was too upset to talk with 10 News on camera, but she's hoping rescuers can find her.

She said she was a light and brought joy to everyone who knew her.

Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan said Hatcher doesn't know how to swim.

"She may have tipped over in the shoals and just panicked. We're hoping for the best but we're continuing our search efforts," said Vaughan.

North Carolina and Virginia state and local law enforcement, first responders and wildlife officials are all searching the shore and the water.

But the rivers strong current and low visibility mean divers have to feel their way around underwater rocks and crevices. 

"We're hoping as the river recedes and the water clears up that we'll be able to make a find. At this point, it looks like it is a recovery mission," said Vaughan.

Though Murphy's not losing faith, she said, "There's always hope. Maybe she's not. Maybe she got out somewhere."

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