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Kayakers find remains in river near steel plant

McDONALD — Investigators are searching for clues in the death of a person whose decomposing remains were found by kayakers shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday in the Mahoning River near the McDonald Steel plant.

The kayakers said the body appeared to be that of a young woman.

An autopsy was scheduled for Monday, according to the Trumbull County Coroner’s office. No results were immediately available.

Patrick Carroll, a man paddling with a group of people from Niles in the area of McDonald Steel, 100 Ohio Ave., said he noticed what appeared to be a toy box about four feet from the river’s edge. He said he separated from the group to get a closer look. He said he was unable to pull the water-filled box from the river, and when he turned, he discovered the remains of a body in a tree a few feet from the box.

Carroll, of Niles, called Trumbull County 911.

He described the body being submerged under water, with only the shoulder blades visible.

The body appeared to be a small female with clothing on it, according to the 911 dispatch report.

“Seriously, there is nothing but bones left,” Carroll told dispatchers. “You can see the ribs and the pelvis. It is a little girl.”

According to a Trumbull County 911 report, the body found may not have been a child, but rather, a young adult.

“The remains were buried deeper than thought,” the report states. “It is an adult.”

Carroll initially described the clothing as a purple shirt, but later said it could be a person with a white shirt and purple pants.

A woman in the background on the 911 audio could be heard say, “This is so sad.”

Because Carroll could not tell dispatchers his specific location, dispatchers used his cellphone signal to pinpoint his location.

The group remained on scene for several hours while waiting for McDonald police and Girard Fire Department to use a boat to retrieve the remains.

Carroll said because a number of children were in the kayak group, he worked to keep them away from the scene while they waited.

Fellow kayaker Carl Morrison described a foul smell in the area.

“We were devastated,” Morrison said. “We could tell it was the remains of a younger person.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve been having nightmares about what we saw,” Carroll said. “My wife could not sleep. I understand my friends also. It was frightening. It is something you never want to see,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he hopes that some family will have a sense of closure once the body is identified and a proper burial is done.

Sunday’s discovery came by chance, particularly since Carroll said Monday he hadn’t planned to kayak over the weekend.

“One of my friends called asking to borrow my kayak,” Carroll said “They wanted to go the way I usually would go, so I decided to go with them.”

Morrison, who helped to organize the kayak trip, said the group of friends decided to do it Sunday afternoon, because other activities were closed or due to limits on group sizes triggered by COVID-19.

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