CHEROKEE COUNTY, Oklahoma -- Recovery efforts continue Sunday for an 18-year-old man who is believed to have drowned in the Illinois river Friday afternoon. It's the third drowning on the river in less than a week's time, according to Ed Fite with the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission.
Xenepher Wiley, Jr. was swimming with friends near the new U.S. Highway 62 bridge and the old river bridge crossings east of Tahlequah at about 1 p.m. when witnesses say he started having trouble. His friends saw him struggling to swim as he reached the old river bridge.
Several of the friends tried to rescue Wiley but were unsuccessful.
Crews searched for Wiley until nightfall Friday and continued recovery efforts Saturday using a boat equipped with side scan sonar equipment, Fite said.
"Unfortunately, today's searching was unsuccessful and was called off for the evening at dusk and will resume on Sunday morning," he said Saturday evening.
None of the swimmers was wearing a lifejacket as they swam.
"It can't be stressed enough the importance that everyone should always boat and swim smart from the start by wearing a lifejacket when enjoying the waters of our state's lakes and rivers," Fite said in a news release.
"This is the third downing to occur on the river in the last week."
"Simply, there is no excuse for not wearing a flotation device while floating or swimming in the Illinois River," he said.
Crews assisting in the search include the Tahlequah Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Team, Illinois River Area Volunteer Fire Department, Oklahoma Scene Rivers Commission staff and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.