Body discovered in Thornport canal
THORNPORT – Hebron resident Danny Friend’s body was found floating in a canal beside the Thorn Township Road 79 bridge near the Port Lounge & Smokehouse and AMVETS Post 51 Tuesday afternoon.
Perry County Sheriff William Barker said Shawnee, Ohio resident Bob Hannah discovered Friend, 61, floating in the canal and contacted authorities.
Barker said the man had a wallet and identification on him, but his identity was withheld until Wednesday evening after family members were notified. Barker said Friend’s body had a noose around its neck suggesting a suicide, but the rope wasn’t directly attached to anything, so it would be impossible to determine a cause of death for certain until the Licking County Corner’s office, which took control of the body, performed an autopsy.
According to the Licking County coroner Wednesday evening, the cause of the death was related to a neck injury, but suicide was not yet confirmed.
Barker said he didn’t immediately see anything suspicious about the death in addition to the noose and a bicycle near the scene, which may have been involved with the incident.
Thornville Sewer Department Assistant Supervisor Trent Howell was one of the first people on the scene. He said he and Supervisor Darrell Brown were headed back to the plant after eating lunch at the AMVETS when Hannah flagged them down. Howell said Hannah said, “I hate to bother you guys,” but he thought he saw a body in the lake.
“I noticed the bicycle,” said Howell. And, he said he saw something floating in the water. “It looked so real, I wished it was fake,” he said of the grisly discovery. They all agreed the body looked real enough, and Hannah called the sheriff’s office.
Howell said he saw the rope around the body’s neck, as well as a bag and hat on or near the bridge. Even with the noose, Howell wasn’t entirely convinced it was a suicide, but he’s not sure. “It was very startling,” he said. Howell said one of the stranger aspects of the scene was that the wind was blowing, but the body wasn’t moving in the water. It was as if it were anchored.
With Halloween coming up, Howell wondered if it were a hoax at first. “That’s a heck of a prank,” he said, never having seen a lifeless body like that before. Howell would’ve hated to contact the sheriff over a hoax. But, Tuesday afternoon the body was confirmed. He said Thorn Township Fire Chief Duane Moore was the first official to arrive. In total, the Licking County Dive Team, the Licking and Thorn township fire departments, Village of Millersport, the Village of Glenford, the ODNR, The Perry County Coroner’s Office, and the Perry County Sheriff’s Department were all represented at the scene.
Howell and Brown returned to work before the body was pulled from the water. “We figured there were enough people there,” said Howell.
“It’s kind of scary, kind of shocking,” said Jessica Kress, who lives near to where the body was discovered. “This is really a big deal for such a small town.” She said even though there didn’t appear immediately to be any foul play associated with the death, it was still “tragic” and “disturbing.”
ODNR and Perry County Sheriff’s Office are leading the investigation.