Holton family hopes their loved one will be recovered soon from icy waters

Wanda English Burnett

Last week the announcement that Justin Hearn, 20, of Worthville, Kentucky, had not survived a boating excursion on the Ohio River, hit home to a Holton family.

Frank White of Holton, confirmed that Hearn is a cousin of his, and they were waiting, along with many family members, to hear news of their loved one.

According to Gary Catron, public information officer for the Indiana Conservation Officers, Hearn went missing after the boat he and two friends were waterfowl hunting from took on water and then sank in the Ohio River on Monday, December 13. He noted they were about 2.25 miles upstream of Florence, Indiana.

About 10:45 a.m. Switzerland County EMS, Indiana Conservation Officers and Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department personnel responded to a 911 call. Friends with Hearn at the time, Joseph McDermott, 21, and Jeremy Pence, 20, of Worthville, Kentucky, were able to grasp personal flotation devices and swim to shore. They then went to a private residence for help.

It was noted that Hearn was not wearing a personal floatation device and did not make it to shore with his friends.

Officer Catron reported that multiple agencies responded to the scene where they searched the river and shoreline by boat, helicopter and foot.

McDermott and Pence were taken to Carroll County Memorial Hospital in Kentucky where they were treated for hypothermia and were later released.

The search for Hearn was suspended just before dark that day and resumed Tuesday morning, December 14 where boats were launched just before dawn.

The bitter cold slowed the search operation, but officers did locate the John boat the boys were in. They hoped it would provide a more defined search area for the missing young man.

Although experts used the side scan sonar equipment, they were not able to find Hearn.
On December 15 about 6:30 p.m. after three days of searching, the Ohio River search and recovery operation was ended. Hearn is now listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) as a missing person. It was reported that the family had been notified and were in support of this decision.

White told The Versailles Republican that the mother of Hearn just wants her son to be found. “It’s really heartbreaking,” he noted, as he told of the family’s hopes to find their loved one, and then the realization that he may never be found.

Catron said at least 16 agencies assisted in the search that has now been suspended.