Search for missing owner of Avalon Gardens takes to the air

Staff report


An Ohio State Highway Patrol helicopter came to the city to perform an aerial search for James Donofrio, the missing owner of the Avalon Gardens bar and restaurant, but a strong river current kept search divers away from the Mahoning River on Sunday.

“You can’t fight that current,” said Capt. William Hack, commander of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office dive team, which last searched the river on Thursday between the Market Street and South Avenue bridges.

If the rain stops and the river level falls, Hack said he hopes divers can return to the water today or Tuesday.

When the current is fast, divers are swept along with it and can’t thoroughly examine everything in the river, Hack said. The river is filled with debris, including tree branches and litter, he observed. “We pulled a safe out Thursday,” Hack said.

“There’s so much debris in there that he could be snagged on anything” if he is in the river, Hack said of Donofrio.

Donofrio, 64, of Boardman, has been missing since he didn’t show up as scheduled at the Avalon Gardens to close the establishment on Sept. 25.

Early on Sept. 26, a railroad employee spotted a man resembling Donofrio along the river bank, and Donofrio’s SUV was found under the Market Street bridge.

Search and rescue dogs and a fire department boat assisted in the search last week.

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