Posted: Mar 9, 2010 3:01 PM by Rob Kirkpatrick
Updated: Mar 9, 2010 3:01 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Texas-based nonprofit group that has been searching for a missing oil executive in New Orleans has found a body in the Mississippi River, where police say he may have fallen in near a ferry boat dock.
Tim Miller, president and founder of Texas Equusearch, said the unidentified body was found Tuesday in the river "very, very
near" the spot where 54-year-old Douglas Schantz, president of Houston-based Sequent Energy Management, was last seen on a
security video Friday morning.
"We went out and got a clear picture of it right away," Miller said. "So then we just brought it up."
It was not known if the body was that of Schantz. Miller said Schantz's brother was to help with the identification. Police did
not immediately comment on the find.
Police began focusing on the river after tracing the man's route there from a Bourbon Street bar. Searching videos from businesses
in the French Quarter, police were able to place Schantz at the dock for the Riverboat Natchez at about 2:40 a.m. on Friday.
Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Tuesday that Schantz, who left the Razzoo Bar and Patio about 2 a.m. Friday, was seen
walking on a 2-foot-wide walkway by the river.
"We're not certain, but it appears Mr. Schantz may have fallen into the river," Police Superintendent Warren Riley said.
Riley said the man, who had been drinking, seemed disoriented on the videos. He is seen going into a restricted area and is not seen again on the video, despite a review of the following four hours of tape, Riley said.
It does not seem that Schantz was the victim of foul play, which had earlier been suspected, Riley said.
"At no point in that 36 minutes was he ever approached or accompanied by any individual," Riley said.
Schantz was in New Orleans to give Tulane University a $25,000 gift during a reception Thursday. After the dinner, he and
colleagues went to Bourbon Street around midnight, said Mark Homestead, a senior vice president who was with Schantz.
Police mounted a massive effort to find Schantz, with 30 detectives scouring the French Quarter for videos showing his path
after leaving his co-workers. The FBI, U.S. Marshal Service and Customs were also involved in the search.
On Monday a Coast Guard helicopter searched for 20 miles down-river but found no sign of Schantz.
Texas Equusearch arrived in New Orleans late Monday to do a sonar search of the river. They began looking next to the Natchez
Tuesday morning, but bad weather forced them to call off the search briefly. The main problem was the riverboat itself, Tim Miller,
president and founder of Equusearch said.
"We started where we think he went in and thought we'd have him in 30 minutes," Miller said. "But this paddlewheel causes a lot
of underwater turbulence and the boat has been in and out seven times since Friday morning."
The current along the French Quarter shore was running at almost 4 miles an hour, Miller said. But there was heavy debris under the water there, he said. And with the water temperature at just 34 degrees, the body would not pop to the surface quickly, he said.
"I almost hope it is caught in debris," Miller said. "If it gets out in that current it will travel. There was another one went
in at almost the same spot and they didn't recover it for 12 days and it was 54 miles downstream."