May 2, 2009
Charleston man might have drowned in New River
Rescue crews are searching for a Charleston man who was swept away by currents on the New River in Fayette County Saturday morning. By Jim Balow Staff writer
CUNARD, W.Va. -- Rescue workers resumed their search Sunday for a Charleston man who disappeared Saturday morning after his canoe overturned on the New River. Jody Jones, 31, was last seen about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, as he was being swept downstream by the swift current, said Gary Hartley, chief ranger with the New River Gorge National River. "I would say, based on witness accounts, we feel it's a high probability this is a drowning." Hartley said. "We won't know for certain until there's a recovery. We've been in contact with his family and extended family."
Two National Park Service motorized rafts searched upstream from the Cunard put-in starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, while a whitewater team searched downriver, he said. Jones and Christopher Eads, 28, of Charleston put their canoe in the river from the Brooklyn campground in Fayette County early Saturday, where they camped overnight with a girlfriend, Hartley said. They traveled upstream, turned around and headed back toward the campground. Jones and Eads were within sight of the campground when the canoe tipped over, dumping both men in the water. "According to Christopher, they tried to right the canoe but it was filled water," Hartley said. Both men tried to swim toward shore but Eads turned back, grabbed the canoe and held on until he could reach shore safely. Jones was swept downstream and went under several times before he disappeared, eyewitnesses said. Neither man was wearing a lifejacket.
Park Service workers were searching the Baloney Hole, not far from the campground, Hartley said, about a mile upriver from the Cunard put-in -- one of two places rescuers think the victim might be. "There was an eddy shortly below where the victim went in where we recovered the canoe and materials from the canoe, or downriver. "In our experience, if we don't make the recovery right away, it takes several days and the body will eventually float to the surface. I think our window of probability is four to seven days."
The two men were canoeing in a swift-flowing section of the New River, just below the Surprise rapid, Hartley said. It is part what rafting companies call the lower New, the most technical section of the river.
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.