Third victim of submerged SUV identified; police say two others still missing

Rockfish River in Nelson County Search Efforts
Rockfish River in Nelson County Search Efforts(Virginia State Police)
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 12:20 PM EST
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NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A third victim has been identified after a submerged SUV was found in the Rockfish River in Nelson County.

Police say one of the victims was 11-year-old Jasiah Davis, of Arrington. Another victim, whom police say was a friend, was also found.

Davis was a 6th-grade student at Amherst Middle School. The school released a statement Friday:

“It is with great sadness that Amherst County Public Schools was officially notified today of the tragic death of one of our students: Jasiah Davis, 6th grade at Amherst Middle School. Our school community is heartbroken over the loss of Jasiah and this tragic event has profoundly affected us all. Additional counselors have been made available at Amherst Middle School in order to provide supports to our students and staff as they deal with this devastating tragedy. Amherst County Public Schools will continue to support our students, staff and Jasiah’s friends and family as they return to their normal routines. Amherst County Public Schools would like to express their sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Jasiah. We ask for your continued prayers and support for Jasiah’s friends and family, as well as our school community. Details regarding funeral arrangements have not been made available at this time.”

Police say at 11:41 a.m. December 27, 2022, they received a call about a submerged vehicle in the Rockfish River near the intersection of Bridgeport Lane and Johnson Hollow in Nelson County. Police are still working to find out the exact day the vehicle was washed into the river.

Ongoing investigations have led police to believe that the driver of a 1997 Toyota 4Runner tried to cross the flooded Rockfish River at a low river crossing on Bridgeport Lane and was swept away by the strong current. The crossing is on private property.

The bodies of 17-year-old Christopher Doss and Davis were found on the riverbank. Doss was an 11th-grade student at Amherst High School.

Police were able to recover the body of 30-year-old Pharoah Shabazz after retrieving the vehicle from the river. Further investigation found that Shabazz was the court-appointed legal guardian of three of the passengers.

State police are told there were two additional individuals inside the Toyota. An 18-year-old male and a 12-year-old male. VSP Search and Recovery Team divers returned to the Rockfish River on January 3rd to resume search efforts for the two, who are still believed to be missing. Unfortunately, the daylong search efforts did not result in the bodies being located. Police say the VSP SRT divers are continuously assessing the water levels to determine which day is best to return and conduct another search of the river.

VSP Aviation Division, Virginia Department of Emergency Management search teams, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office have been assisting with the ongoing search and investigative efforts.