Accident Database

Report ID# 96792

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Other
  • High Water

Accident Description

Mountain Home man drowns in kayaking incident on Crooked Creek

By: Staff; KTLO TV, Mountain Home, AR

May 18, 2020

A Mountain Home man drowned Sunday afternoon while kayaking with his son and the son’s friend on Crooked Creek in Yellville. The victim is identified as 54-year-old William Lender Ealey. The other two men, 31-year-old Jeremy Ealey of Mountain Home and 33-year-old Joseph Barr of Bull Shoals avoided injury, despite their attempts to help the victim.

According to information from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the three were kayaking on the high water of Crooked Creek when the elder Ealey’s craft capsized, and he was pinned against a tree. Despite wearing a life jacket, Ealey was submerged by the force of the water.

The other two men were able to free Ealey and attempted unsuccessful CPR. The report indicates, at that point, after their kayaks had been swept away, they loaded the victim into his kayak and tried to get to shore, but the water was too fast, and they lost both the kayak and victim.

The 911 call came in at 4:45, and the victim’s body was recovered at 6:41 Sunday evening. The two survivors were rescued from an island in the creek.

The incident happened about one-quarter of a mile upstream from the Highway 14 bridge in Yellville. Over 4 inches of rain were reported in the area from Saturday afternoon until Sunday morning.

Agencies involved in the search and rescue included the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Arkansas State Police, the Marion County Swift Water Rescue Team, Yellville Fire Department and the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. 

Kayaker drowns on swollen Crooked Creek

Josh Dooley, Baxter Bulletin

Published May 18, 2020

A 54-year-old man, William Ealey, drowned and two others were rescued after they attempted to kayak a rain-swollen Crooked Creek on Sunday afternoon, according to Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans. William Ealey and his son 31-year-old Jeremy Ealey, both of Mountain Home, were kayaking on Crooked Creek Sunday along with the younger Ealey's friend, 33-year-old Joseph Barr of Bull Shoals, when the accident happened.

William Ealey, who was wearing a life jacket, struck a tree top in the creek, was pinned and then forced under the turbulent water. His son and Barr then went to the older Ealey's aid, losing their kayaks in the process.

They were able to bring the victim and his kayak to shore when they began performing CPR on the older Ealey. The attempt to revive the man was not successful. They then loaded him into the kayak, hoping to reach an access point.

During that attempt, the waters proved too rough and they lost the kayak containing the older man. The two survivors came ashore on an island and were rescued by a boat deployed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. In addition to the AG&FC and the MCSO, the Arkansas State Police and the Baxter County Sheriff's Office responded to the incident.

The Twin Lakes Area received several inches of rain over the weekend, causing area creeks to run fast. Some roads with low water bridges were impassable as a result of the storms.

Given that many people have been staying at home due to the COVID-19, Sheriff Evans is concerned about the appetite people have to get back out on area waterways during conditions that are less than optimal. "We certainly appreciate that everyone wants to go out and do the things we all love doing here now that we're able to get out of the house more," the sheriff said. "We do want to caution folks that using good judgment is critical in avoiding tragedy. We extend our sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Ealey."

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