Ellicott City man, 36, drowns at W. Va. dam


West Virginia rescue workers found the body of an Ellicott City man inside a floodgate of a dam in the Monongahela River Monday, one day after he disappeared during a fishing trip there, Monongalia County deputies said yesterday.

The death of Douglas A. Smith, 36, of Ellicott City was ruled an accidental drowning. Police are waiting for toxicology tests to determine his blood alcohol level, said Cpl. Mark A. Ralston of the Monongalia County Sheriff's Department.

Mr. Smith, a native of West Virginia, had been drinking and fishing with friends at the Opekiska Lock and Dam south of Morgantown before he disappeared, Corporal Ralston said.

He said West Virginia authorities planned to return his body to Maryland this week. Mr. Smith's friends or family here could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Investigators were still trying to determine yesterday how Mr. Smith, who was standing on the dam fishing with his friends, fell into the 10-foot-deep waters below the dam. There were no signs of foul play, Corporal Ralston said.

"We don't know why he fell," Corporal Ralston said. "The toxicology tests will determine whether drinking may have contributed to his fall and not being able to get out."

According to police, Mr. Smith and at least two friends had traveled to the popular fishing spot for catfish and carp late Saturday night. When the other men packed to leave for home at 3 a.m. Sunday, Mr. Smith told them to pick him up from the spot at 7 a.m., police said.

A friend showed up at 7:20 a.m., but told police that Mr. Smith was not there.

The friend thought Mr. Smith had grown impatient and caught another ride. He did not consider Mr. Smith's absence suspicious until no one around town reported seeing him that day, police said.

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