Home Local News First responders search for missing fisherman on Pee Dee River

First responders search for missing fisherman on Pee Dee River

Water spills over the Blewett Falls Dam, raising levels on the Pee Dee River, creating a challenge for first responders looking for a missing fisherman. Photo by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The search continues for a man who reportedly went missing along the Pee Dee River over the weekend.

According to Richmond County Emergency Services Director Bob Smith, the family of Mark O’Neal, of Rockingham, called around 9 p.m. Saturday to report that he had gone fishing earlier in the day, but hadn’t returned home and no one had heard from him.

O’Neal was reportedly in a 16-foot aluminum fishing boat with his dog.

Since that night, crews have been searching near the base of Blewett Falls Dam and near the bridge on U.S. 74, all the way down to the boat landing in Cheraw, South Carolina, according to Smith.

The search had to be temporarily called off around 2 a.m. Sunday morning due to severe weather and limited visibility, but resumed at 8 a.m. and continued until dark, Smith said.

High water levels and a strong current due to recent rains have made search efforts challenging.

Richmond County Sheriff Mark Gulledge said there has been “an outpouring of resources” from local agencies and those from surrounding counties.


According to Smith, search efforts have involved 71 first responders from 12 agencies in four counties from two states, including: the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office; Rockingham Rescue; Hamlet Fire and Rescue; Cordova Fire and Rescue; Ellerbe Rescue; Lilesville Fire Department; Ansonville Fire Department; Cheraw Fire Department; Scotland County Sheriff’s Office; Laurinburg Police Department; N.C. Emergency Management; Anson County Emergency Management; and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The N.C. State Highway Patrol joined the search on Monday.

The sheriff said O’Neal’s dog was found around noon on the Anson County side of the river.

However, as of 1 p.m., there had been no sign of O’Neal or his boat.

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