Body of W.Va. Firefighter Recovered

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County rescuers believe they have found the body of the Glasgow firefighter swept away while attempting a water rescue on March 13 in Raleigh County.

C.W. Sigman, Kanawha County fire coordinator, said the body was found in Piney Creek, about 4 1/2 miles from where the boat capsized near the town of Beaver.

"We're pretty sure we found him," Sigman said Friday afternoon.

Sigman led the search team that located the body.

"He's downstream in a pile of brush. They're trying to get him out with chainsaws. There's a lot of huge brush and tree limbs to cut through to get access to him."

Donald "Donnie" Adkins, 32, was in a rescue boat with Glasgow Volunteer Fire Department Chief Marty Blankenship and another firefighter when the boat tipped over about at about 1:30 a.m. last Saturday, Blankenship said Monday.

Firefighters had been searching for Adkins' body all week.

About 60 people were involved with the search on Friday, Sigman said. For several days this week, there were close to 100 people searching the Gauley River and its tributaries, he said.

Adkins' body was found about 12:30 p.m. Friday, he said.

On Thursday, dogs were used to search the area, but they turned up nothing, Sigman said.

"It's in a very inaccessible spot. It's hard to get to when the water was up," Sigman said. "When the water went down, it looked like a likely spot, and there he was."

Raleigh County rescuers, along with rescuers from South Charleston, Sissonville, Nitro and other towns helped in the search, he said.

"We were lucky," he said. "The big push was going to be [Saturday]."

When the accident happened, the firefighters were attempting a rescue in the Beaver area and had already fought the currents to rescue 11 people in another part of the county, Blankenship said earlier.

The water was up so high that firefighters had to cut through telephone lines to cross the water and reach people in attics and trees, said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.

Adkins was with the Glasgow department for about three years and was a firefighter in Rand before that, Blankenship said.

He had two children and was also like a father to his girlfriend's daughter, Blankenship said. All are between the ages of 5 and 8, he said.

Adkins had lost his job March 12, the day before he lost his life. He worked in Montgomery for the Capital Resource Agency's weatherization program, said Sandy Singleton, Adkins's aunt.

Adkins went to DuPont High School, Singleton said.

"Donnie was a very loved individual," Blankenship said. "He was just a good all-around person."

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he wanted to commend all of the firefighters and other rescuers who helped with the search, as well as Gov. Joe Manchin, who also lent his support.

"While Kanawha County mourns this loss, we respect Donald's bravery and sacrifice," Carper said. "We should be reminded that these individuals put their own personal safety on the line each and every day to protect us all."

Republished with permission of The Charleston Gazette.