Accident Database

Report ID# 28689

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water

Accident Description

Authorities have identified a missing Paw Paw River kayaker in Berrien County as 35-year-old Cory Wright, from Niles. Emergency crews were called to the river near the 42-hundred block of R. Smith Street in Watervliet just before 8 p.m. Tuesday after two kayakers hit a log in the river and were tossed out of their watercraft. One was able to swim to shore.

Crews continue to look for missing kayaker in Watervliet

March 1, 2018

by Jessi Schultz, WSBT 22 Reporter, S. Bend, IN

WATERVLIET — Rescue crews are searching for a Niles man that's been missing for nearly 24 hours. He disappeared while kayaking in the Paw Paw River in Berrien County.

Search and rescue crews still haven't located the missing man. They're searching on private property right now near Waterviliet but they say they've been looking all along the river up to Coloma. This started about 7:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The kayakers got in their boats and traveled upstream. That's when they hit a log jam. Two of their boats tipped over, knocking the missing man and another out. The other man swam to shore. The kayaker who remained in his boat got to shore, but they couldn't locate their friend.

WSBT 22 was told he is a 35-year-old from Niles.

Crews worked until almost midnight Tuesday night searching and resumed again Wednesday morning. They even used a plane and a drone to help. The Waterviliet fire chief says if they don't find him by nightfall, they'll most likely pause and resume Thursday.

"It's going to depend upon our manpower, you know. You put a guy in the water, the current for a long period of time it takes a toll on. And we only have so many guys that are certified to be in those suits,” said Chief Dan Jones, Waterviliet Fire Department.

Jones told WSBT 22 rescue efforts are taking a lot of manpower because of the condition of the river. Due to flooding, it's much wider than normal. So all the brush is now in the river. The current is also moving at a much faster pace. He says despite those challenges, crews won't give up until they find this man.


Police find body during search

for missing kayaker in Berrien County

by WSBT 22 

Tuesday, April 10th 2018

Members of Berrien County Sheriff's department have found a body in the Paw Paw River. They were searching for a kayaker who has been missing since February. They are now working to identify the man's body.


The following release was issued Tuesday night by the Berrien County Sheriff's Department:

On Tuesday April 10, 2018 Lieutenant Martin Kurtz and Undersheriff Chuck Heit were patrolling the Paw Paw River in efforts to locate the missing kayaker who was reported missing on February 27, 2018. While patrolling the river Lieutenant Kurtz observed a suspicious object under the water and upon further investigation it was believed to be a human body. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team was activated and contact was made with Watervliet Fire Chief Dan Jones for assistance as well. Divers from the Sheriff’s Office Dive Team located and recovered the body of a white male at 4:47 PM. The body was transported by Pride Care Ambulance to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and the Watervliet Fire Department have worked together for the last 43 days in attempts to locate the missing kayaker. An autopsy will be conducted and the positive identification of the recovered body is ongoing.


Authorities search southwestern Michigan river for missing kayaker


February 28, 2018 - WXZY News

WATERVLIET, Mich. (AP) — Authorities are searching a river in southwestern Michigan for a missing kayaker. The Berrien County Sheriff's Office says three people were kayaking on the Paw Paw River near Watervliet on Tuesday evening when two kayaks struck a log. The department says one kayaker swam to land and a 35-year-old man from Niles was missing.

The sheriff's dive team was on the scene Wednesday and was searching for the man, whose name wasn't immediately released. The search comes as area waterways have been running high due to heavy rain and melting snow that's been blamed for recent flooding in the Midwest.


Police recover body in Paw Paw River believed to be kayaker missing since February
Posted Apr 10, 2018
A sheriff's diver in the water Tuesday, April 10 on the Paw Paw River(Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff)
UPDATE 1:45 p.m Wednesday, April 11: An autopsy will be conducted Thursday, April 12 at the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. Police have not released the identification of the person found. 
BERRIEN COUNTY, MI -- Police have recovered a body from the Paw Paw River believed to be a kayaker who went missing in February.
Cory Wright, 35, of Niles, was kayaking on the river Feb. 27 with two other people when his kayak struck a log.
Wright fell into the river. The other two people tried to help him but were not successful.
Police searched for days but could not locate Wright. Sheriff's Lt. Martin Kurtz and Undersheriff Chuck Heit were on the river Tuesday, April 10 in another effort to locate any evidence of Wright when they found a suspicious object under the water.
Sheriff's divers later recovered the body of a white male just before 5 p.m. Police say an autopsy will be performed to confirm the identity of the body. 

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