A Cook County Sheriff’s officer looks over a bridge spanning the Des Plaines River at 31st Street on May 17. | Bob Uphues/Wednesday Journal
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Since authorities resumed the search for Cameron Sanders on Tuesday, Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officers have situated themselves on bridges over the Des Plaines River.
Sanders, 16, of Villa Park, jumped into the Des Plaines River last Saturday and never resurfaced.
Authorities had canceled what was described as a “recovery mission” inexplicably on Monday before resuming their efforts the following day after community members volunteered to lead a recovery mission of their own.
Those volunteers included Oak Park teacher and activist Anthony Clark, who helped organize Monday’s effort, and Robert Larson, the good samaritan who gained local prominence in 2013 after finding the body of Bryeon Hunter, the Maywood 1-year-old who was beaten to death, and thrown into the river, by his mother and her boyfriend.
News that the search for Sanders had been called off also elicited a response from a state lawmaker, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), who expressed his disappointment with the cancellation.
As of Wednesday, Sheriff’s officers were spotted along several bridges spanning the river south of North Avenue, including one on Madison Street, between Maywood and River Forest, and one on 31st Street.
According to a Wednesday Journal report, “On May 16, the Cook County Sheriff announced that it had taken the lead for the search and posted officers at bridges south of where the incident occurred, since that is the direction of the river’s current.
The search, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office has included sonar boats, helicopters, search dogs and people searching along the river bank. The search will continue, the sheriff’s office indicated, until the teenager […] has been found.” VFP
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Maywood – “Blessed is the hand and sight [that giveth] before it is asked…wisdom and grace before it is called for and those that proceed in the face of adversity…for they are the diamond…and carry not what is asked us but what is needed. I needed to find Bryeon,” Robert Larson said before a standing room only crowd gathered inside of Village chambers for last night’s board meeting and swearing-in ceremony, “and Bryeon needed for me to find him.”
Larson, the Westchester man who heroically scoured the Des Plaines River for thirty days in a successful mission to find the body of one-year-old Bryeon Hunter, received several standing ovations when he and his Yellow Labrador, Dexter, appeared in front of the room. Hunter was murdered in Maywood about a month ago, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend, and tossed into the river during the couple’s attempt at a cover-up. Some of the many volunteers whom Larson led throughout his month-long search of the river lined an aisle. They were more than a dozen strong, dressed in bright yellow shirts.
Police Chief Tim Curry and outgoing Mayor Henderson Yarbrough both presented Larson with a plaque of appreciation. During his comments, Larson recounted a few of the many acts of spontaneous generosity and kindness that spurred him to his discovery. He told of how one woman, when she heard about his efforts, gave him a canoe. “She didn’t give it to me to use, she gave it to me to keep for future searches,” he said.
There was, however, a slight problem. “It didn’t have any paddles.” Larson said he was tempted to go through the river’s debris and find just about anything that would serve as a feasible replacement, until a stranger driving through the area stopped. “She said I want to help. I told her I’d just got the canoe that day and said I need some paddles.” The woman went to the store and within an hour reappeared with two paddles.
But Larson didn’t go much further than 100 yards before the canoe capsized. Although Larson was able to retrieve the canoe, he’d lost his equipment upstream. However, he gained invaluable insight. The direction in which his equipment had went was a clue to where the body might be located. “By dumping that canoe over it gave me light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
At that point, though, Larson knew the canoe was too dangerous to use. So, he put it on Craig’s list for $500. Within an hour, someone bought it. The money he got for the canoe allowed him to buy a much more efficient kayak. Within four hours of his purchase of the kayak, he found Bryeon.
“I’ve got calls from Austria, the UK, all over the world thanking me for my efforts, [but] most of all I want to thank one individual — that’s God,” Larson said. “I want to thank God for keeping us all safe out there…” Larson was overwhelmed with emotion, his sobs drowned in the crowd’s deafening applause.
After Larson spoke, one of his volunteers addressed a few remarks to the Mayor and the Chief. “We would like to thank the residents of Maywood. There’s no finger-pointing,” the man said. “Chief Curry you didn’t come up short. Where you stopped, we continued…with the help of the Mayor here and the Chief…we continued.”