Local paddler writes: Another sad, all too familiar, story. Class I Driftwood River, in flood, believed to be wearing a reflective vest, not a pfd, river in flood, out of its banks, paddling alone, temps in the upper 40’s-low-50’s. Cheap Recreation boat. Bartholomew County, Indiana.
Missing kayaker’s body found
Taylorsville man discovered hours after kayak located in river
By Julie McClure, the Republic, Columbus, IN
April 7, 2017
Family members gathered to mourn Friday night after search and rescue teams found the body of a missing 26-year-old kayaker in the receding Driftwood River floodwater. The family of Keygan Matlock was notified shortly after 4 p.m. Friday APRIL 6th after members of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department Water Rescue Unit airboat found the Taylorsville man’s body near some logs outside of the river channel, said Angela Goldman, Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman.
His body was found about 100 yards from where his kayak was located Friday morning, in the S-curves of the Driftwood between the Lowell and Tannehill bridges, Goldman said.
“We are devastated,” said Jenny Thompson, Matlock’s aunt, who had been awaiting word about her nephew since his Wednesday disappearance from his home in Tannehill Park. “We were not naive to think that this couldn’t happen, but it’s just so final,” Thompson said. “We are leaning on each other for sure.” About 15 family members were at Matlock’s home when the notification was made, and another 15 were at his father’s home, also in Tannehill Park, she said.
Matlock, who lived at 3950 Deer Court in Tannehill Park, was reported missing Thursday morning by his family. Based on information from the family, investigators believe Matlock launched the kayak late Wednesday morning and headed south on the Driftwood.
“Keygan was very loved by his family, and he loved them,” Thompson said, adding that he especially loved his 6-year-old daughter, Marley. A second child with girlfriend, Kyla Heslop, is due in about nine weeks. “He was such a free spirit and he loved nature,” Thompson said. “If there is any consolation, he died doing what he loved — being on the water.”
Family members identified Matlock’s blue kayak after it was found at 10:30 a.m. Friday and brought to the DNR staging area near the Tannehill bridge — shedding tears and sharing hugs after looking at the kayak. At that point, Thompson said family members were just numb as they awaited word if Matlock had survived, hanging onto a shred of hope that he would be found alive.
Matlock’s 6-foot fiberglass kayak was found floating upright and empty, wedged into a treeline between the two bridges on the Driftwood. Five and one-half hours later, Matlock’s body was found about a mile south of the Tannehill bridge, within a few miles of his home.
The Driftwood River gauge Friday morning was reading 9 feet, down from a crest height of 14.73 feet Thursday afternoon, said Shannan Hinton, Bartholomew County Emergency Management director.
The kayak was spotted Friday by a four-member crew manning a helicopter from Duke Energy. The crew included Luke Harper, lead pilot; Ryan Keitel and Kent Adams, transmission line supervisors; and Scott Shoffner, transmission line specialist. They joined the search to assist the Indiana State Police helicopter in a grid and riverbank search of the Driftwood and Flatrock rivers Friday morning.
Keitel had requested that his company join the search efforts with its helicopter due to a personal connection. Keitel’s son, Dylan Lortz, is a former football teammate of Carson Yoder, a stepbrother of Keygan Matlock. Keitel said he contacted Duke regional executive Donald Broadhurst, who gave permission Thursday to use a company helicopter and to have a Duke crew join the search.
Duke’s helicopters are normally used to fly inspection routes on the utility’s transmission towers and lines, and personnel are specially trained in lower-level flight patterns which they adapted for Friday’s search, Keitel said. It is unusual to have a Duke Energy helicopter used for search and rescue, he said. The Duke crew had been in the air about a half hour Friday morning, flying at about 400 feet, about a mile and a half south of Tannehill when they spotted the kayak wedged in the treeline.
The helicopter slowed and hovered to allow crew members to check the scene with binoculars, and then circled back around to mark the location by latitude and longitude and also on an iPhone. They also located the nearest address for the DNR to send ground searchers.
The Bartholomew County Water Rescue Team used its airboat to pick up the kayak.
The Duke helicopter and a second helicopter from the Indiana State Police continued to fly in a rotation Friday, each up for about two and a half hours, then back to Columbus Municipal Airport for refueling. While the helicopters were in the air, ground and riverbank searches had been conducted throughout the day.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m. Friday, the Duke crew spotted what appeared to be a life jacket in the water near where they had earlier found the kayak. They notified the sheriff’s department airboat rescue team, which was sent out and recovered Matlock’s body. That was just before the helicopters were about to land because of incoming bad weather.
Matlock had told a younger brother that he had been thinking about taking the kayak out Wednesday on the flooded Driftwood, and was not deterred even though his stepfather warned that the river was too high and the temperature too cold, making it too dangerous.
Sasha Rose, who lives on County Road 330W just south of Taylorsville, told conservation officers she thinks she saw Matlock on Wednesday, sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., in his kayak on the Driftwood, passing by her home.
She yelled at the man about the danger of being on the river in a kayak when the water was so high, and he yelled back that he would be careful as the swift-moving current carried the kayak quickly downstream. She is believed to be the last person to see Matlock before he disappeared Wednesday.