A teenager is missing and presumed drowned after he disappeared Tuesday while swimming with friends in the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Wis.

Just before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, first responders got a call that a swimmer was struggling in the river near Domer Park, according to a news release from Eau Claire police. They searched the river and surrounding area but did not find him. Officers reviewed surveillance camera footage to identify where he was last seen.

The boy, 17-year-old Williamefipanio G. Hessel, a student in the Eau Claire School District, was jumping off the cliffs at Mount Simon Park into the Chippewa River, police said. His friends told police that he swam far out into the river, “became distressed and could be heard calling for help” before disappearing, the news release said.

The search for Hessel continued Wednesday. City police and firefighters, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and a volunteer organization called Bruce’s Legacy, were involved.

“Our thoughts remain with Hessel, his family and friends,” police said in the news release. “We will continue investigating until Hessel is found.”

Eau Claire schools offered counseling and support.

STAFF REPORT