Letart man drowns in Ohio River during Mothman Festival

The Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant began with tragedy after James Grueser, 59, of Letart drowned in the Ohio River near the Point Pleasant Riverfront Park on Saturday.

Witnesses said that Grueser jumped in the water after telling a maintenance worker he planned on bathing in the river, around the south end of the park.

The area around where Grueser disappeared is posted with signs warning of the dangers of swimming in the area. Locals also said that underwater logs and similar debris pose a threat while under the water.

Grueser took his shoes off before jumping into the river, witnesses reported. Foul play and suicide have been ruled out. Police said the drowning was ruled accidental.

“It wasn’t something I noticed people chattering about at the festival,” Samantha Gibbs said. Gibbs, a visitor to the festival, said she did not hear much about the drowning until she got home and saw posts related to the drowning on social media.

The riverfront park and amphitheater area were closed while recovery teams searched the river. Grueser’s body was found about 14 feet under the water near where he jumped in.

The areas that were closed reopened shortly after his body was removed from the river, and the festival continued.

The two day event celebrates the mystery winged creature referred to as Mothman which was reportedly spotted around the Point Pleasant area in the 1960s.

The 14th annual festival brought an estimated 5000 visitors to Point Pleasant’s historic Main Street and riverfront part from all over the world.

Although the event had a somber start, it continued for the rest of the day Saturday and Sunday without any other reasons for concern.


John Cole Glover can be contacted at [email protected]