Body found in Puyallup River thought that of missing South Hill man

Staff writerSeptember 6, 2013 

Crews from several Pierce County law enforcement and fire agencies pulled a badly decomposed body out of the Puyallup River on Friday.

The corpse was a male, dead for several months, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Investigators believe they’ve found Austin Smith, a 25-year-old South Hill man who disappeared July 1 while inner-tubing near Sumner. The medical examiner has not formally confirmed the man’s identity, but investigators have spoken with Smith’s family.

First spotted by a fisherman in Puyallup, the body floated swiftly down river, possibly dislodged by heavy rain overnight, Troyer said. Searchers from the county’s swiftwater rescue team, aided by Puyallup tribal authorities, corralled the body near the mouth of the river, where it pours into the Tacoma Tideflats.

Smith and two friends were floating in inner tubes on the day of the disappearance. The two friends left the river about 6 p.m. near Mama Stortini’s restaurant, under the East Main Avenue Bridge in Puyallup. At that point, they realized Smith was missing.

Searchers combed the river for Smith that night — they found his inner tube, but nothing else.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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