Search ends for woman swept off sand bar

By Stefanie Geisler
Globe Correspondent / May 27, 2010

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The search was called off yesterday for a 22-year-old woman who has been missing since she and a group of friends were swept off a sand bar near Plum Island late Tuesday afternoon, Coast Guard officials said.

The search for Marina Kohn of Lynn ended at 9:22 a.m. yesterday, said Petty Officer Connie Terrell, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

“The decision to end the search for Ms. Kohn is a very difficult one,’’ Coast Guard Commander Nathan Knapp said in a statement. “As a life-saving service, it’s never easy to end a search with someone still missing at sea. Our thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time.’’

Kohn’s mother, Sokhan Kich, told television reporters that her daughter was a “great kid’’ who graduated from Syracuse University last week.

“I lost my daughter,’’ Kich told reporters. “I don’t know what to say.’’

Eight people were tossing a green ball around in the water on the sand bar at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday when the tide came in, sweeping them away, a witness said.

“They were probably waist-deep, maybe a little deeper than that,’’ said Steve Nimblett, 21, of Seabrook, N.H. “They were kind of tossing a ball back and forth, just playing around, having a good time.’’

Nimblett said he was fishing about 10 feet away from the group when he noticed the tide coming in. He headed back to the shore, where he stood with another fisherman. The group did not try to come back to shore, Nimblett said.

“I guess nobody realized what was really going on,’’ Nimblett said. “All of a sudden, they got swept off of the sand bar heading towards the river, into the river.’’

Rescuers managed to pull seven of Kohn’s friends from the water.

Nimblett and the other fisherman ran down to the water. They got within 15 feet of the group and were about waist-deep before the current got too strong, Nimblett said.

They quickly flagged down nearby boaters, who helped pull people out of the water, Nimblett said. He and several others dragged two people onto the beach.

“I waded back in, asking how many people they had on the boat, trying to get a head count,’’ Nimblett said. “I asked them how many boys, how many girls. We realized there was a girl missing still.’’

Nimblett said the tide is very strong when it comes in over the sand bar.

“I’ve actually seen this happen in the same place before, when I was little bit younger,’’ Nimblett said. “I was fishing in a boat off the same area. A couple of people got swept in. They got taken right out by another boat, though.’’

Searchers combed the ocean near the mouth of the Merrimack River through Tuesday night and into yesterday, scouring nearly 120 square miles, the Coast Guard said.

“I just wish there was more that we could have done,’’ Nimblett said. “I feel like if we had a piece of rope or a lifejacket, we could have helped more.’’

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