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State officials worked on Friday to recover a second body missing in the West Branch of the Ausable River.   Safety lines were laid to allow crews to work in the "Flume" area where fast currents were swollen by heavy rains.  Photo:  courtesy NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
State officials worked on Friday to recover a second body missing in the West Branch of the Ausable River. Safety lines were laid to allow crews to work in the "Flume" area where fast currents were swollen by heavy rains. Photo: courtesy NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Second student's body found in Ausable River

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The body of Michael Lawson was found Sunday afternoon by state rescue divers working in the west branch of the Ausable River.

Lawson was a Plattsburgh High School junior. He and another Plattsburgh High student drowned on Thursday while swimming near 'the flumes" during high water.

The body of Taoufik Maknani, age 17, was found late Thursday. Maknani was a popular two-sport star at the high school. He would have graduated over the weekend.

The recovery effort involved state police divers, Environmental Conservation crews, and local fire and rescue workers. It concluded Sunday when Lawson's body was recovered.

"Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw responded to the scene and authorized removal of the body to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for an autopsy to be conducted [on Monday]," said State Police in a release.

Both teenagers have been mourned during vigils and graduation ceremonies in Plattsburgh over the weekend.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

A helicopter assists in the search and rescue effort. Photo: courtesy NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
A helicopter assists in the search and rescue effort. Photo: courtesy NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
"I can’t say enough how sad and untimely this is. The young man we found yesterday was due to graduate and how difficult this time is for the families at this point. I can’t imagine what they must be going through. It’s just very important that we all think about the families at this point and offer our support," said State Police spokeswoman Jennifer Fleishman on Friday.

Authorities say the two were swimming with a small group at The Flume. It’s a popular spot for cliff jumping and diving about two miles upstream from the  Wilmington Town Beach.

911 calls triggered a search involving some 100 people from fire and rescue departments and agencies from two counties.

Search and rescue team team securing safety lines.  Photo: courtesy NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Search and rescue team team securing safety lines. Photo: courtesy NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
State police say the river was running very high from recent rains at the time of the accident, and that's created heavy water flow with strong undertows.

The area is located just off Route 86.  Speaking Friday afternoon, state Forest Ranger Captain John Streif said highwater remained a challenge for recovery efforts.

According to Streif, there is still some confusion about the circumstances that led to the drowning.  "The two subjects disappeared from view," he said.

The Plattsburgh Press Republican is reporting that funeral services for Maknani are scheduled for later this morning at the Islamic Center of Quebec in Saint-Laurent.

Meanwhile, a second search is now underway for a Herkimer county man missing on West Canada Creek in the Adirondacks. 

According to WKTV news, 48-year-old Roger Keeler of Newport, NY, went missing on Friday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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