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Search resumes on Susquehanna River for missing Berks County man

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 15 2013 02:39:28 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2013 04:23:14 AM CDT

Crews are still searching for a Berks County man who disappeared after a fishing boat capsized on the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.

CONESTOGA TWP., Pa. -

Crews are still searching for the body of a Berks County man who went overboard in the cold Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.

The small fishing boat flipped Saturday morning in Conestoga Township, about 11 miles southwest of the city of Lancaster.

Boats were back in the water Monday searching for Jose Suarez-Lopez, of Exeter Township. First responders confirmed they are now in recovery mode.

"Under normal conditions the body will surface between 3-4 days, and we're just hoping to see something out there," said Asst. Chief Paul Thomas, Conestoga Twp. Vol. Fire Dept.

Crews searched the shoreline and around islands for Suarez-Lopez, 57. He went fishing with his girlfriend, Bertha Castro of Reading, on Saturday. Monday was her 52nd birthday, but on Saturday she was fighting for her life. Another boater reportedly saw her arms in the water, and officials believed Suarez-Lopez went under trying to save the woman he loved.     

"She could not swim, he could, and he was apparently trying to hold her up at the time when the guy picked her up," said Thomas.

Castro was taken to Lancaster General Hospital and treated for mild hyperthermia, said officials.  

Crews scanned the water for hours over the weekend for her boyfriend. Ann Reid watched from atop a hill in her backyard.

"The whole time they're looking, everybody was kind of holding their breath hoping they find this guy," said Ann Reid, who lives off the Susquehanna River.

The water temperature is around 60 degrees, the current is swift and to make matters worse, the couple was not wearing their life jackets, said officials.

"It's something that could have been avoided, just a simple thing as a life jacket and two people would be alive instead of one," said Ron Ross, owner of "Hoggies," a sandwich shop just off the water.

A new Pennsylvania state law requires boaters to wear a life jacket during the winter months from November to the end of April. According to locals, the Susquehanna is not a river to play with.

"It's the swiftness of the currents, it's the complexity of the current and it's the coldness of the river," said Reid.

Crews will continue their search of the shoreline, to help bring some closure to the victim's family, said officials.