Scroll to the bottom to read the full release from McCracken County's Sheriff Jon Hayden
PADUCAH - The body of a missing a man was found this morning in the Ohio River.
The McCracken County Sheriff tells Local Six that family members found 29-year-old Michael Paul Cozart in the Ohio River around 7:30 this morning.
Cozart somehow ended up in the Ohio River following a deadly crash on Wednesday along the I-24 bridge between Metropolis, IL and Paducah, KY.
Police are still trying to figure out how Cozart ended up in the river.
The McCracken County Coroner's Office is working to determine the cause of Michael Cozart's death right now.
Full release from Sheriff Jon Hayden:
On July 08 during the early evening hours, the McCracken County Sheriff's Department began receiving credible information about a possible second passenger that may have been occupying the pickup truck that was rear-ended and that was being driven by 74-year-old Donald G. Winn, of Paducah. No witnesses the night of the accident reported seeing a third involved person at the scene of the accident.
Family members reported at around 5:45 p.m., July 8 that 29-year-old Michael Paul Cozart was last seen approximately 10 minutes prior to the accident getting into Mr. Winn's 2004 Chevrolet pickup at a residence in Metropolis, Illinois. They reported that he had not been seen nor heard from since.
Others were interviewed Thursday evening after receiving this new information who reported that Cozart had been staying with his girlfriend two doors down from Mr. Winn's residence on Park Avenue. They said that Mr. Winn had picked up Cozart at his girlfriends house to give him a ride to Metropolis. Cozart's family then filed a missing persons report with the Massac County Illinois Sheriff's Department Thursday evening.
After learning of a connection between Michael Cozart and Donald Winn and the fact that he had not been seen nor heard from since, officials began a search of the Ohio River Thursday evening utilizing boats from the Paducah-McCracken County Disaster and Emergency Services. The search was called off at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday night. Plans to resume the search were made for 9 a.m. Friday morning utilizing several rescue crews from the area. Local news media, WPSD-TV, ran a story at officials request at 10 p.m. Thursday evening in an effort to ask for anyone who may have witnessed the accident on the I-24 bridge to call authorities.
A series of telephone calls were received from persons that either witnessed the vehicles involved immediately prior to or immediately after the accident. The witnesses that officials were able to speak with stated that there was in fact a passenger in Donald Winn's vehicle immediately prior to the accident. Based on the accident investigation which included evidence recovered at the scene and witness statements, sheriff's investigators and the McCracken County Coroner's Office have made the following findings:
74-year-old Donald Winn was eastbound from Illinois on I-24 crossing the Ohio River Bridge. He had 29-year-old Michael P. Cozart riding as a passenger. There was an aluminum ladder in the rear of the pickup truck that had blown out of the truck, landing in the right lane in the traveled portion of the roadway. Mr. Winn stopped his vehicle in the right lane and his passenger, Michael Cozart, exited the passenger side of the pickup truck and walked several yards back to retrieve the ladder. Immediately after placing the ladder back into the pickup truck bed, the vehicle was rear-ended by 31-year-old Bobby Farmer, of Metropolis, Illinois, killing the driver of the truck hit, Mr. Winn.
Cozart, during this instant, went over the bridge railing and into the Ohio River.There is no evidence to suggest that Michael Cozart was struck by either vehicle involved in the accident but evidence would suggest that he may have fallen over the railing to avoid being struck by one of the vehicles.
At approximately 8 a.m. Friday morning, McCracken officials were contacted that a cousin of Michael Cozart had located his body in the Ohio River west of I-24 and east of Metropolis Ferry Landing Road. Boats from the McCracken County Sheriff's Department and McCracken County DES were dispatched to the area and did, in fact, recover the body. The body was identified as belonging to Michael P. Cozart.
A preliminary examination of his body by the McCracken County Coroner's Office indicated that no trauma was present that would be related to him being struck by a vehicle.
The investigation is continuing.