Search for Baton Rouge firefighter continues

Emergency responders continued to search Sunday for a Baton Rouge firefighter reported missing by his wife at a boat launch in lower St. Martin Parish last week.

Jacob P. Lewis, a 28-year-old Baton Rouge firefighter who lives in Walker, disappeared Wednesday afternoon near the Belle River boat launch by the border between St. Martin and Assumption parishes. Lewis and his wife had been scouting areas to place crawfish traps in the Intracoastal Waterway. His wife reported him missing after the two returned from their scouting trip, and she lost sight of him in the water.

A rescue party has been searching for Lewis every day since he disappeared, and Adam Einck, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the search for Lewis will not stop.

“There’s no timetable,” Einck said. “We’re still gonna search every day.”

Emergency responders from St. Martin, Assumption and East Baton Rouge parishes along with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and volunteer firefighters have conducted the search, which Einck said turned up “nothing new” on Sunday. The search has been concentrated around the boat launch where Lewis was last seen.

Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack has said that Lewis backed his truck down to the boat launch to attach the boat to a trailer after the couple returned from the scouting expedition. Lewis’ wife, who was in the truck, noticed after some time that the boat didn’t hit the trailer, so she got out of the truck.

When she looked toward the water, she saw the boat adrift and Lewis was trying to swim to it and was hollering for her to call 911, Waguespack said. She lost sight of him after that, the sheriff said.

Einck said the rescue team will continue searching from first daylight until sundown every day, and there are no plans to call off the operation.

“We’re still searching,” he said.

Robert Combs, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Fire Department, said several firefighters who have training in swift-water rescues have been aiding in the search for Lewis, who has been with the Fire Department for four years. Combs said he wasn’t sure how many firefighters were searching at any given time, but he said the plan is to continue looking for Lewis until he’s found.

In addition, Fire Department officials are monitoring the mental health of the firefighters as they deal with the ongoing search for one of their friends and co-workers.

“Our critical incident stress management team is on alert, and periodically we’re checking with guys at the stations to make sure they are dealing with the situation as best as they can,” Combs said.