(Rock Island Argus  Thursday, 28 May 1981)

Rock Island Man Feared Drowned

A Rock Island man is feared drowned following a boating accident late last night in a Mississippi River slough.

The victim has been tentatively identified as James A. O'Melia Jr., 8811 16th St. W.  Searchers from the Moline police department today were conducting dragging operations in the Sylvan Slough area where a boat capsized and dumped three fishermen into the river.

The accident happened about 8:20 last night when Michael Tollenaer, 1604 89th Ave., Rock Island; James Bashaw, Milan,; and another companion were fishing from a boat off 2nd Avenue in Moline.  Police said the boat capsized when it was pulled into a hydroelectric dam.

Police officials estimated the current below the dam at about 14 miles per hour.

According to reports, Tollenaer and Bashaw were able to grab on to a portion of the dam after the boat capsized.  In the excitement, they lost sight of their companion.  Police said all three men were wearing flotation devices.  However, O'Melia's safety device was found downstream from where the accident occured.

Officials searched for the boat's third occupant until last night and called off the search because of the swift current and darkness.

The search has been concentrated in the Sylvan Slough near an area roughly 50 feet from the dam and in front of the Iowa-Ilinois Moline Generating Station.

The site is popular with local fishermen and has been the location of one other drowning this year.  Lawrence Kelly, 58, of Green Rock, died April 30 after slipping into the river while fishing from the shoreline.

(Rock Island Argus  Saturday, 30 May 1981)

Body of Drowning Victim Found

A man described as a "water detective" has found the body of missing Rock Islander James O'Melia.

O'Melia drowned in a fishing accident late Wednesday and searchers had been unable to locate his body in the area near the Sylvan Slough, where he was last seen.

But early today the body surfaced about 1 ½ miles downstream in an area near the Crescent railroad bridge in Rock Island.  The body was found by Frank Wade, Rock Island, who found two other bodies that disappeared under similar circumstances last year.

"He's like a private detective when he's near the water," Coroner Eugene Sullivan said, referring to Wade.

An autopsy has been scheduled for later today.

O'Melia disappeared after a boating accident in the Sylvan Slough.  Two companions who were with him at the time of the incident were saved when they clung to a power dam near the site of the accident.  They were later rescued by Moline police and fire officials.

Search teams had sought O'Melia's body for two days and had concentrated in the area near the Sylvan Slough.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church in Rock Island, with Dr. John W. Collins officiating.  Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery, Rock Island.

Knox-Larson Funeral Home in Rock Island is in charge of arrangements.

Visitation will be at the church at 1:15 p.m. Monday.  The family will be present.

Memorials may be made to the James O'Melia Jr. Children's Education Fund in care of American Bank in Rock Island.

Mr. O'Melia was born Nov. 2, 1948, a son of James A. and Jackie Tyler O'Melia.  He received his education in Rock Island public schools.  He married Christa Houser July 11, 1970 in Chicago.

He served with the Illinois National Guard and was discharged in 1976.  He was a superintendent with Langman Construction Co. in Rock Island and was member of the Tri-City Cement Masons Union local.

He was an outstanding basketball and baseball player at Rock Island High School and Augustana College.  He was graduated from Rock Island High School in 1966.

Surviving are his wife; a daughter, Corrie, and a son, Jimmy, both at home; his parents of Rock Island; brothers Michael of Sherrard and Terry and John of Rock Island; a maternal grandmother, Dorothy Tyler of Silvis; and a paternal grandmother, Grace Schwab of Rock Island.

(© 1981 R I Argus)