Vermont State police believe a man drowned Thursday in the New Haven River.
For Brian Mantie and his friend, the Fourth of July started with a swim at the river in Bristol.
"He called me up this morning and said, 'Hey, do you want to go?' And I said, 'Yeah.' We've done this before a bunch of times," Mantie said.
But unlike those other swims, this one turned to trouble. Thursday afternoon, Mantie says he lost his friend in the currents just past the Bartlett Falls.
"It was strong, but nothing I thought we couldn't handle. We'd swim from one end to the other and then he was coming on his way back and that's when I lost him," Mantie said.
By 3 p.m., swiftwater rescue teams and other first responders were combing the river and working the banks looking for signs of the 26-year-old Bristol man.
"The river beds are constantly changing, with the gravel moving underneath and it's stirred up, very muddy, you can't see the bottom," First Assistant Bristol Fire Chief Brett LaRose said.
Teams worked into the evening through the rain at stations up and down the river. LaRose said the conditions that were making it difficult for them are the same as those that are making the river dangerous for recreation.
"Anytime anybody gets into a natural river with waters that are moving as they are, because of the amounts of rain that we've experienced this summer, conditions are unsafe," LaRose said.
Mantie spent the afternoon with the crowds of people who gathered at the scene sharing his thoughts on the friend he hoped would be OK.
"Great guy, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, do drugs, pretty good shape, he's a great guy, funny to hang out with, we loved watching basketball together," Mantie said.
Crews suspended the search for the Bristol man Thursday night and plan to continue looking Friday morning.
State police are reminding people that due to the weather the rivers and streams are much higher and more dangerous than usual and to use extreme caution around the water.
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