Chesterfield County police released the identity of the man as that of James Y. Sadler, 38, of no permanent address.
The man was with his nephew at the time but the boy managed to swim to shore safely. The man's relatives were here at one point, but were taken away from the area. Moments before emergency crews started recovery operations.
Sadler went under about 1 p.m. He'd been wading across the Appomattox -- starting at the Petersburg side. The depth of the river in this spot is about eight to 12 feet. Sadler went under; the boy swam to the river bank at Archer Park.
When Chesterfield's dive team got the call, they were training on the James River. They got to the spot about 25 minutes after the initial 911 call, and were in the Appomattox an hour later.
"There was quite a bit of time between our arrival and our entry into the water and much of that was due to the sizing up for a safe operation. We're putting our divers into a location where someone has just drowned. We don't know why they drowned or what led to that so we have to take every precaution before putting our resources in there," said Lt. Matt Coffin, Chesterfield Fire and Rescue.
Colonial Heights already had a boat in the water and were dredging the river from there. Chesterfield divers found the body about a half hour into their search.