Canoe tragedy update:
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Jan 18, 2013 | 2695 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A search will resume for three people reported missing after their canoe overturned Wednesday afternoon in a rain-swollen Polk County creek. It has now changed from a search-and-rescue to a recovery operation. All were members of one family, officials said.

They were members of the Mennonite community.

According to Bradley County Interim Fire Chief and Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Spence, officials will resume search efforts at noon today.

The missing, a man in his 30s and two juveniles, were canoeing on Conasauga Creek with three other juveniles when their craft overturned just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Ben Davis.

Davis said information regarding ages of the children and adult was difficult to obtain due to the victims being a part of the Mennonite community who reside in the Delano area of Polk County.

Davis said today the search to save their lives has turned into a recovery to find their bodies. Three of the siblings, all under the age of 10, made it to safety.

“We eliminated a great deal of areas Thursday where the victims could be. We were able to do a widespread ground search due to the waters of the creek receding from the rainfall flooding,” Spence said.

“Bradley County Fire-Rescue along with West Polk Fire and Rescue and other mutual-aid agencies suspended the search just before noon Thursday due to our search crews becoming hypothermic and the impending icy and snow conditions,” Spence added.

Ice pelted crews as they searched along the banks and inland from the creek.

“Strainers” are a term used by officials in swift-water rescue to describe pilings of brush and trees that sift or collect other brush and items which flow downstream.

“We have quite a few strainers in the creek which we will be able to check today as we expect the flooded creek to recede even more. Our efforts should be a little easier today, as conditions along the creek and in the area have improved since the rain and snow has ended,” Spence said.

Spence also said BCFR crews were on standby for any operations such as fire or crash response needed in the west Polk County area.