The search is on for missing swimmer in Rend Lake

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Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - Randall Barnes
Web Editor - Ryan Burkett

UPDATE (5:29 a.m.): Emergency crews in Franklin County, Illinois spent hours searching for a missing swimmer on Monday before calling the search off for the night around 11:30 p.m. Sgt. Jeff Cariens with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the search will resume at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Earlier story (from Monday):

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. - Emergency crews in southern Illinois spent hours searching for a missing woman on Monday. They say she took a boat out to go swimming with friends in the part of the lake north of Route 154 and just west of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreational Area. She went missing in the water around 11:15am, and now first responders are calling this a "recovery mission".

A constant stream of boaters came in and out of rough waters at Rend Lake on Monday, but an unidentified woman who went in went missing. "Accidents do happen. You adjust try to avoid them. Do everything we can to try to avoid them," said boater Doug Westfall. He said his family goes boating almost every summer, but aside from fun, his main goal is steering his two grand kids toward safety. "We go out there and we want to make sure everybody comes back," said Westfall.

Sgt. Jeff Cariens with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said five boats with sonar and divers all combed through the lake, looking to bring the woman back. "Hopefully we'll have this taken care of in a few hours. If not, we'll be back out first light tomorrow morning," he said.The search went late into the night. "Our guys, some of them have been out since five this morning, so they'll be working off fatigue if they go any longer than that," he said.

Sgt. Cariens says they're always on high alert this time of year. "Unfortunately, holiday weekends seem to be when this type of thing happens so it's always in the back of your mind." It's a tragedy Westfall says is at the front of his mind and heavy on his heart. "I can't imagine what they're going through, and we just pray they are comforted," he said.

Sgt. Cariens says they do not believe alcohol or drugs were involved in this incident.

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