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Friends of missing hiker “Praying for a miracle”

Twenty minutes after Rochester police pulled a man's body from the Genesee River, friends of a man missing since Monday arrived on the scene fearing the worst and hoping for the best. 

"I'm still praying for a miracle that it's not him," said Bill Berardi.

The body has not been identified, but we now know the identity of the missing man.  He is 28 year old Jacob Baxter, a father of three including a baby born in June.

"I heard through the grapevine that a body had been found.  I wanted to come see if I could help," said Berardi who played softball with Baxter.  He arrived just as the scuba squad was leaving.  The divers did not go into the water.

"The recovery was made by boat then piloting the boat to the sheriff's department marine unit," said RPD Investigator Frank Camp.  He said the body was discovered by two men fishing in the Genesee near Turning Point Park.

Police have turned it over to the Medical Examiner for identification but would only describe it as belonging to a "white male."

Jacob Baxter was last seen Monday hiking about 3 miles from this location near Driving Park.  "As far as I know it was an accident- he slipped and fell," said Berardi.  Search and rescue efforts were called off Monday because high water levels made it too dangerous. 

The same conditions hampered today's recovery efforts.

The next day Berardi walked the riverbanks with a friend- a desperate search for his friend.  "Obviously a lot of people are heart-broken.  He was a great man- a father of three who was a great example to everyone who met him," he said.

Other friends describe Baxter as an athlete who was devoted to his wife and family and above all- "He was a great man of God, bottom line.  He knew where he was going," said Berardi.

But he also adds:  "That still leaves a family behind.  A young family."

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Washington Times