Divers focused on a new area of the Oklahoma River on Friday in their search for an infant girl, the remaining victim of the May 31 flooding in Oklahoma City.
The child was part of a group of people who sought shelter from a tornado in a storm drainage tunnel and were swept into the river near SW 15 and Interstate 44.
The bodies of Timothy Shrum, 21, Destiny Shrum, 4, Terra Shrum, 3, and Cory Don Johnson Jr., 3, have been recovered. The body of Alexis Johnson, 5 months, has not been found.
“We've wanted to do our very best and work as hard as we can to try to restore a body to the families so they can receive a proper burial,” fire Battalion Chief Brian Stanaland said. “That's been our goal all along. It's a terrible, tragic loss of life.”
For the past three weeks, firefighters have searched the banks of the Oklahoma River on foot and from boats at the dam near downtown between S Western Avenue and S Walker Avenue, Stanaland said. City crews have helped by clearing debris from the water. Teams of four to eight firefighters have rotated searches during daylight hours only.
Thursday was the first day divers were able to go underwater as the water currents have calmed down since the flood and more debris has been removed by city crews in boats.
Friday, Stanaland said, the search moved to the May Avenue dam near S May Avenue where a team of divers searched underwater.
Dive teams will not be in the water this weekend as the fire department takes time to evaluate how the search will be conducted.
“The fire department is doing well with these searches,” Stanaland said. “It's part of our job. We're working very diligently and very hard throughout this flooding event and the recovery of the victims.”
Next week, the fire department will begin relying on city public works boat crews to let firefighters know if they find anything in their routine patrols of the river.
The department always monitors the mental and physical health of firefighters in all situations, he said.
“It always does affect you and it does sometimes make it worse because it's children,” Stanaland said. “Unfortunately that's what we're looking for, a little bitty infant, so it is a tough duty but these firefighters are strong and work through those type of issues.”
Contributing: Staff Writer Hannah Covington