Searchers in Polk County returned to the Mennonite community Saturday in hopes to find the bodies of a father and his child.
Nick Alley, 36, and five of his children went into the Conasauga Creek after their canoe reportedly overturned in rain-swollen waters Jan. 16. Three of the children made it to safety, according to reports.
Searchers located Alley’s son’s body Thursday. The boy, whose name was not released, was believed to be 6-years-old, according to Ben Davis of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Davis indicated preliminary reports were that all the children involved were 10 years of age or younger.
On Saturday, West Polk County Fire Rescue Chief Steve Lofty said an article of clothing consistent with the second missing child had been found in the waters. The clothing was also described as belonging to a small female.
“We have had approximately 100 searchers from various Rescue Squads looking here today. There are a number of strainers built up which heavy equipment is being utilized to break apart,” Lofty said.
A strainer can be described as a “dam.”
Logs and debris from tornadoes have caused jams along the creek.
The creek rose 10-12 feet above normal after four days of constant rainfall.
“We are planning on concluding the main search operation today (Sunday) and will return Tuesday when plans are to put divers in the water once again to sift through the strainers,” Lofty said.
Frigid and icy conditions stopped search operations Friday.
During recent days, crews have been in kyaks and rubber boats, on foot around the creek banks. A track-hoe provided by Wright Brothers Construction has been removing piles of logs from tornado damage in the past.
Lofty said the equipment has also been dredging the sandy bottom of the creek.
Side-scan sonar has been utilized at the scene by TWRA and Hardeman County searchers.
Cadaver search teams are also expected to join the search once again since the waters have receded from the heavy rainfall.
Lofty said earlier this week the sonar aided in making sure soft sandy areas of the creek bottom were not trapping the bodies of the missing Mennonites.
“We will continue to be here aiding and providing resources if needed,” said Davis.
TWRA is in charge of the overall investigation of the incident.