State agencies conduct underwater search
VERNON -- Equipped with technology previously unavailable, state agencies from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts took to the Vernon dam Tuesday to search underwater for a mother and daughter reported missing from West Chesterfield, N.H., in 2001.
Tina and Bethany Sinclair were last seen together the weekend of Feb. 3 and 4, 2001, and dive teams will continue patrolling the waters near the Vernon dam until later today. New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Benjamin J. Agati told the Reformer this week's search is the result of a collaboration between the New Hampshire State Police, the Cold Case Unit of the Office of the Attorney General, the N.H. Fish & Game Department's dive team, New Hampshire Marine Patrol, the Vermont State Police scuba team and the Massachusetts State Police Underwater Recovery Team.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, Tina and Bethany lived in West Chesterfield at the 182 Mountain Road residence of Tina's boyfriend, Eugene Van Bowman, prior to their disappearance. Prior to the weekend they went missing, Tina last went to her job and Bethany last attended school on Feb. 2, 2001. Tina was 36 years old at the time, while Bethany was 15. Agati would not say if there were any prime suspects in the missing persons case.
He told the Reformer the state agencies have for a while been discussing the coordination of a multi-team search of the area around the Vernon Dam and the search is not based on any new leads or information. He said dives have been conducted on the Connecticut River in the past, but new training and techniques now enable divers to search closer to the dam than ever before. Agati said the emergency personnel got to the beach off Governor Hunt Road at daybreak on Tuesday.
"It's a dangerous area. There are some strong currents in the area," Agati said. "It's certainly not a place where people play around."
Agati and Lt. Jerome Maslan, commander of New Hampshire State Police Troop C in Keene, N.H., said TransCanada -- which owns the dam -- has been extremely helpful and cooperative in allowing the state agencies to patrol the dam and its water.
At about 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, several searchers were resting and rehydrating while numerous colleagues searched the water. Sandwiches and beverages were provided and the searchers talked with one another while waiting to get back on the water.
The Reformer previously reported that at the time of the disappearance, Bethany Sinclair was a student at Keene High School and Tina Sinclair was a cosmetologist working to become a home health nurse.
Mary Lewis, Tina's mother and Bethany's grandmother, told the Reformer she was aware of the underwater search being conducted, but it is difficult to remain optimistic after all these years.
"I've lost my hope. It's been so long," she said Tuesday. "I've been hoping they'll just walk through the door and they haven't yet."
Lewis added, however, that she greatly appreciates the efforts various agencies have taken to find her daughter and granddaughter.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.
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