Search to resume Tuesday for missing swimmer near Franklinton

Melanie Borja, 22
Melanie Borja, 22

Franklinton, La. - It started as a fun afternoon with friends and ended with a Washington Parish Sheriff's boat searching the Bogue Chitto River.

22-year-old Melanie Borja of Picayune, Miss. disappeared while tubing with her friends Sunday.

"They had discarded their tubes and they were swimming in the river, swimming downstream. They stopped on a limb, they were holding onto the limb to talk, the limb broke," says Washington Parish Chief Deputy Mike Haley.  "One of the girls went swimming on back down the river. She said the girl who was missing was swimming around in that area.  The last she saw her, she was on her back swimming... she went around the bend and didn't see her anymore."

Haley says Borja's friends reported her missing about an hour and a half later.

The sheriff's office searched until dark Sunday and returned at first light to keep looking. A Coast Guard helicopter circled overhead and late in the afternoon, Slidell police arrived with sonar equipment.

Haley says the river current isn't too swift right now, but the real danger is below the surface where there's a strong undertow.

"In spots, the river is very shallow, just a couple feet deep," he says.  "But there are other parts of the river where there are some holes that are anywhere from twelve to 20 feet deep."

Borja has red hair and weighs 125 pounds. She was wearing a two-piece bathing suit with a white top and blue bottom.

The Coast Guard and Washington Parish deputies are currently searching an area of five miles around Camp Circle Road and the Bogue Chitto River.  Volunteers also checked camps in the area in case Borja sought shelter.

The search will continue Tuesday.