West Polk Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Lofty said Monday the search has been under way since late last Wednesday and much has been accomplished in attempts to find the bodies of Nick Alley, 36, and two of his children.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Ben Davis confirmed Alley as the missing father but due to TWRA policy, could not release the identity of the children.
Alley and five of his children were canoeing in Conasauga Creek Wednesday.
Heavy flooding due to four days of steady rainfall caused the creek to rise approximately 10 to 12 feet, according to Lofty.
Three of Alley’s children, all reportedly under 10 years of age, made it to safety after the canoe overturned.
Davis could not confirm the ages of the two missing children.
“We brought side-scan sonar crews in during the weekend to scan the areas of search,” said Davis.
“This was very helpful and we cleared several sandy bottom areas of the creek. We were able to get some good readings along the bottom of the creek,” Lofty explained.
Units from Hardeman County and TWRA searched the areas of the creek.
Dozen’s of searchers have been working in a unified effort to help locate the victims, according to Lofty.
Veteran search specialist Richard Taylor of Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and a reserve member of area law enforcement provided search dogs at the scene.
“Tri-State Mutual Aid Association has provided a great service and we have all been working together to make this a seamless process,” Lofty said.
As the waters of the creek receded after the torrential downpours and soaking rains, rescue and search crews have scoured both the banks of the creek as well as the stream itself.
Brush piles 10 to 12 feet high have created dams up and down the creek, which is 75 feet wide or greater in places.
The brush piles are primarily trees and limbs dumped by tornadoes, authorities said.
Searchers dressed in dry-suit scuba gear man kayaks along the creek while others monitor debris from the pilings as they are broken up by a track hoe.
“We are thankful to be a part of Tri State Mutual Aid,” said Lofty.
“The Incident Command structure has worked well and we are rotating command each day,” he explained.
More than 43 agencies make up the association which can provide resources to missions of virtually any nature, whether it be fire, search or rescue, according to Lofty.
“We have also been fortunate to have Delano Baptist Church and Friendship Baptist Church as well as the Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross to provide hot meals to the many people volunteering their time and efforts to help the family find their loved ones,” Lofty said.
Agencies included in the initial response to the scene included McMinn County Fire and Rescue, WPFR, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Bradley County Fire-Rescue and others.
No indication was given as to how long the search might continue.