Family far from coping after crews recover boy's body in Great Miami River

Bryan Nolasco Morales went missing Monday

WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Crews recovered the body of 8-year-old Bryan Nolasco Morales Wednesday afternoon after two days of searching a "very dangerous area" of the Great Miami River in Whitewater Township.

"It's a sad ending but at least we have finality for the family," Mike Robison, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, said.

Morales' body was located at about 4:30 p.m., and taken to shore about an hour later.

Weather conditions made the overall search very tough and posed problems during the operation, officials said.

"Over three days, the rate of the current, the level of the water rising and falling ... was very difficult conditions," Robison said. "There's a churning, and the water's moving different directions. It can very easily sweep you off your feet."

The discovery of Morales made for an extremely emotional time for his family, along with handfuls of volunteers who helped from the water's edge.

"They wanted to allow some finality for the family because they know as parents themselves how important that would be for them," Robison said. "Our hearts go out to them. Everyone is relieved at this point to have located Bryan Morales."

Morales' family and friends are far from feeling closure, and said Wednesday night they can't believe he's gone.

His brother, 20-year-old Macgiver Morales stood with the rest of his family on the river's banks, even though he was unable to be there when Bryan's body was found.

Bryan, a third grader at Glen O Swing Elementary School in Covington, loved to play soccer and ride bikes. He was indeed special, according to his big brother.

"I basically raised him. I raised all three of my brothers. With him it was very different because he was premature, so we had to give him a little bit of extra help," Macgiver said. "I bottle fed him when my mom was out. I took care of him when my parents were out, until the certain age that he was grown."

Bryan will never be forgotten, and while his death is a reality for the Morales family, coping with the loss has yet to come.

"He was like one of my best friends I could have," Macgiver said. "I won't be able to see him again and I wish I could see him again but I can't."

"I still looked out for him, and I'm always gonna remember because he's basically someone special in my life ... because he's my brother."

Hamilton County emergency crews began searching for Morales in the river along US 50, between US 128 and Kilby Road, at about 4 p.m. Monday.

Sonar "hit" an unidentified object at the bottom of the river Tuesday afternoon before the search was called off for the night.

Harrison Fire Chief William Hursong said search dogs “hit on one spot in the river real hard." He said sonar later showed signs of an object near the area where the Great Miami and Whitewater rivers meet, close to where the boy was last seen.

Just after 5:30 p.m., Hursong said divers still didn't know what the object was, and that it was difficult to call off the search before getting the job done.

"Our rescue safety is our number one priority at this point," he said. "When we feel like we're risking too much, we're going to back off and regroup a little bit and come up with a new plan."

Fog delayed emergency crews from getting back in the water Wednesday morning, but boats were lowered into the river around 11 a.m. to continue the search. 

Hamilton County's Urban Search and Rescue unit joined the search for 8-year-old Bryan Nolasco Morales Tuesday.

Crews worked "in recovery mode" since Monday. 

“We’ve searched on land, we’ve searched on water, we’ve searched in the air," Whitewater Township Assistant Fire Chief Mike Siefke said Monday night.

More than 70 people and eight fire agencies helped comb the river. Deputies also used a helicopter and seven boats in the search.

The search for the missing boy began Monday just before 4 p.m.

Officials said the child was fishing with his family at the mouth of the river when he fell into the water and never resurfaced.

Hursong said Morales and his family gained access to the river by walking underneath a railroad trestle.

Pockets of deep and shallow water in some areas have made it difficult for large boats with sonar equipment to maneuver, officials said. Heavy rainfall during search efforts means water levels in the Great Miami can go from shallow to neck-deep without notice.

A rescue boat capsized and sunk at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, tossing four members of the search crew into the water. All four crew members are OK, authorities said, but the spill set them back a day.

Watch Chopper 9 video of the capsizing, here :

“It's a short area, but it's going to be a tough go especially with the conditions after the rain," said Tom Lakamp, duty officer with Hamilton County Urban Search and Rescue.

Morales’ older brother said his family members have fished in that same spot several times. He said when his little brother fell, he jumped in and tried to grab him, but was unsuccessful.

WCPO's Jason Law, John Genovese, Holly Pennebaker and Maxim Alter

contributed to this report.

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