A Jeep pulled from the Delaware River on Sunday is the vehicle of Joseph McGeehan, the missing Bridesburg man who has been the subject of a search by family and friends since Jan. 7, yet, McGeehan’s fate still isn’t known.
McGeehan’s cousin, Jeff Hojnowski, said family members remain hopeful that the 31-year-old man is alive.
No one has seen or heard from McGeehan since 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, Hojnowski said.McGeehan, who lived with his sister near Harbison and Torresdale avenues, had left Calloway’s Irish Inn at Cottman Avenue and Rowland Street and was driving his 2007 black Jeep Liberty eastbound on Cottman Avenue toward Frankford Avenue, Hojnowski said.
McGeehan reportedly was heading to the Wissinoming Yacht Club, at 5100 Devereaux St., to meet up with friends. He never arrived.
“It’s totally out of character for him not to show up,” McGeehan’s cousin said.
Through public appeals, especially on social-network sites, family and friends have posted McGeehan’s photo and sought any information that can be helpful.
As of Thursday, Jan. 12, Philadelphia police still had classified McGeehan as a missing person. A police contact told the Star that a police report indicated that the Jeep was recovered from the Delaware River.
Stephanie Maude, a cousin of McGeehan’s, contacted the Star late last week and said that although the family had reached out to police on Jan 8 - the day after McGeehan’s disappearance - McGeehan’s vehicle wasn’t retrieved from the river until Tuesday, Jan. 10.
The police contact said the vehicle was submerged in about 19 feet of water and had front-end damage, including a smashed windshield and missing headlights and bumper.
When McGeehan failed to arrive at the yacht club, family and friends called hospitals and police districts, hopeful of learning his whereabouts, Hojnowski said.
Some headed for McGeehan’s intended destination, the yacht club, and noticed tire tracks on Unruh Avenue that led into the river, he added.
Hojnowski said the family was able to obtain security surveillance footage from cameras at Orthodox Automotive, at 5247 Unruh Ave. The footage, recorded on the night McGeehan went missing, showed a Jeep plunging into the murky waters of the Delaware River.
“There’s no barricades there,” said Hojnowski. “If you’re driving down that street, you could be in the water before you know it … the water just looks like black asphalt.”
In fact, Maude had taken even taken video to show how dark the area is at night. She said the family feels there needs to be some sort of warning sign to alert drivers to the river’s edge there.
Lisa Barry, a close friend of McGeehan’s for more than 20 years who has been part of the search, said that, from McGeehan’s vehicle, police also recovered McGeehan’s cell phone and a shoe.
She expressed her feeling that police could be taking a more active role in the search for McGeehan.
“It’s really crazy,” said Barry, noting that friends and family continue to search the riverside near where his vehicle was found. ldquo;I don’t know why the police aren’t getting involved.”
According to the police contact, officers searched for the driver but eventually suspended the operation because of insufficient lighting.
McGeehan’s cousin Maude agreed Barry’s assessment of the police response.
She claimed that once police recovered the vehicle - the third that, she said, was pulled from the river that day - officers used sonar in an attempt to find McGeehan.
However, she said, divers wouldn’t enter the water due to the frigid conditions that evening.
She also claimed an officer told her that once the vehicle was recovered, their jobs were done and McGeehan would eventually “wash up.”
Also, Barry acknowledged that there has been concern about whether McGeehan could have taken his own life, but no one had seen any signs of depression.
“He was never depressed or anything,” she said.
McGeehan’s cousin, Hojnowski, doesn’t believe it was a suicide attempt either; the Jeep was found with one of the front seat windows open, potentially leaving McGeehan with an escape route, the cousin theorized.
Hojnowski said the family is working with the Coast Guard to help search the water for his cousin.
As the days pass, he said, the family continues to hold on to the fading hope that McGeehan may still be alive.
“One of the officers told me Joe could survive in the water for over an hour without getting hypothermia,” said Hojnowski. “So, there are signs that he may have gotten out.”
McGeehan is white, about 5-feet-9, and weighs about 140 pounds. He has short brown hair and a goatee.
The word “Babe” — his nickname — is tattooed on his right forearm in old English letters; a green, white and orange Celtic shamrock surrounded by the words “In loving memory of Burr” is tattooed on his left forearm.
He also has the word “Erin” tattooed on his upper left chest. Information can be relayed to the police by calling 911 or to McGeehan’s family at 215-284-7514 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ••
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or email@example.com
Editor’s note: This article was updated with new information on Monday, Jan. 16, after McGeehan’s family contacted the Star with new information.