UPDATE: Body of Marshall student found after jumping into river after I-64 crash

Published: Feb. 4, 2017 at 7:35 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
UPDATE 2/7/17 @ 6:15 p.m.

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The body of a Marshall University student missing for four days has finally been recovered.

Mitchell Higgins, 22, was a senior and a history major.

He was found by a man walking his dog along the riverbank.

Our cameras were rolling as the call came in, when a long search finally came to an end.

Barboursville Police Chief Mike Coffey said Higgins crashed his car on the I-64 bridge over the Guyandotte River near mile-marker 17.5. It happened around 4 a.m. Saturday.

His body was located more than a mile downstream, in the fourth day of searching.

"I’ve spent a lot of time looking on the river,” Coffey said. “Sometimes it's a day or two, sometimes a month or two, and sometimes you never find them so that's does not surprise me."

It all started Saturday morning when Higgins crashed his car on the bridge, then jumped over the barrier to the river below. Coffey believes Higgins may have had trauma from the crash, was dazed and confused and didn't realize there was such a steep drop.

Rescuers say they will likely never know how the body of Higgins traveled from the I-64 bridge down to where it got caught in a debris pile not far from the bank. But it’s most likely that he floated there originally, and got caught by a debris pile underwater.

Chase Lusher, Cabell County EMS and co-coordinator of the Disaster and Intermediate Response (DIRT) Team, said the water level dropped about 3 feet overnight, helping to reveal the body.

He adds searching the Guyandotte is very difficult with steep banks, fast current and very cold water.

"There's a lot of different things inside the water that people don't realize,” Lusher said. “There are cars, car parts, tires, debris, huge debris piles that we have had to navigate through. That's a huge complication."

"There are at least 1,000 obstacles between where he went in and the Ohio River that he could have been stuck in or around," Coffey added.

Roy McComas, who has lived along the Guyandotte for 30 years, is the one who spotted Higgins' body. He said it was facedown in one of those debris piles, about 15 feet from the bank.

He had been walking his dog after lunch, thinking he would take a look around his property.

“I was kind of surprised," he said.

Now, McComas and the rescuers hopes the discovery helps everyone, especially the Higgins family, have closure.

"I hurt for the family,” McComas said. “Maybe this will help get some answers."

"I'm just glad that the family finally has closure,” Lusher said. “And I speak for all the agencies that our sympathies that go out to the family."

Higgins was from Sistersville in Tyler County. That's about halfway between Parkersburg and Wheeling.

His cousin declined to be interviewed about the loss.

He worked at the Buffalo Wild Wings near the mall. A manager there declined to be interviewed, as well as one of his friends.

Messages requesting comment from Marshall University have not been returned.

UPDATE 2/7/17 @ 2 p.m.

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The body of a missing Marshall University student has been found.

The Barboursville Fire Department tells WSAZ the body of Mitchell Higgins was found along a riverbank in the 5500 block of Guyan River Road.

According to eyewitness accounts, Higgins jumped off a bridge into the river after an accident on I-64 early Saturday morning.

According to Marshall University, Higgins was a senior history major at the school.

Higgins was from Sistersville in Tyler County.

Emergency personnel had been searching for Higgins since Saturday morning.

UPDATE 2/7/17 @ 11:45 a.m.

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Barboursville Police have released the name of the person they believed jumped off a bridge after an an accident on I-64.

According to a release, there is a high probability the person is Mitchell Higgins, 22, of Sistersville in Tyler County.

Police say Higgins is a student at Marshall University.

The accident happened in the early morning hours of February 4 on an I-64 bridge that cross the Guyandotte River.

According to a release, eye witness statement and evidence collected suggests Higgins jumped over a retaining wall into the river.

Barboursville Police and Fire Departments along with Cabell County EMS are continuing to look for Higgins.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.


CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Rescue crews are out searching for a man who they say may be in the Guyandotte River.

Dispatchers tell WSAZ early Saturday morning there was a single vehicle crash on I-64.

It happened near mile marker 17.5.

A passerby then called 911 about seeing a man from that crash jump over the bridge into the river.

Dispatchers say they don't know for sure if there actually is a man in the river.

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry tells WSAZ they have a search and rescue team looking for the man.

We have a crew at the scene gathering details.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.