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Report ID# 115857

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  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
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  • High Water

Accident Description

Wife of man killed in canoeing accident wants to see changes made

KHBS 46/29 News: 8:44 PM CDT Jun 12, 2019

WAR EAGLE, Ark. — 33-year-old Ross Tharp was killed while canoeing at War Eagle Saturday, according to the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

On Wednesday, his wife said that she wanted to see changes made that could help prevent future accidents. "I don't want this to just end with Ross drowning and just being horrible. I want people to be properly prepared, and that could help the next person get out," said Robin Tharp, his wife.

Tharp was canoeing when his canoe went over the dam at the mill. He was thrown out of the canoe and went under the spillway. "When you float across that thing, you drop off into a vortex area, which sucked him down. He came out of the canoe and was engulfed with water. He tried like everything to get out, but he couldn't," Tharp's father said.

Tharp was wearing a life jacket, which brought him back up to the surface. His family said that three employees from the War Eagle Mill tried to save him by dropping ropes over the bridge. They attempted to give Tharp CPR, but he did not recover.

Tharp's father, the Mayor of Decatur, Bob Tharp, said that his son enjoyed the outdoors and loved canoeing. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

Mayor Bob Tharp also wanted to warn people about the dangers of the strong current and high waters from recent heavy rains. "I realized how dangerous it was. The dam was totally engulfed with water. Normally in dry season, you can walk across the dam. But now the water is high, and we've had a lot of rain. It's a beautiful time of year. There is an opportunity to go float that river, but please don't float over the dam. Get out of the water, walk around the restaurant, and then go floating onto Beaver Lake from there," Tharp said.

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