Monday, April 18, 2011

Missing Cookeville Kayakers Found OK

Emergency management officials in Putnam and Overton counties say two kayakers -- who set out for a Sunday afternoon adventure -- found themselves "fortunate to be alive." Brandon Smith, the public information officer with the Putnam County EMS says that when Lane Ward and Keith Brown decided to take an afternoon adventure in the Flat Creek area of Overton County, they never imagined they would be the subjects of a search party looking to find them.

The two have a long-standing friendship, and work together at Cookeville High School. Ward, of Double Springs in Putnam County, is an assistant principal, and Brown, of the Algood area of Putnam County, is a history teacher. 

They put their kayaks into the water at the Flat Creek Bridge that crosses over State Highway 136 in Overton County at approximately 1:30 pm on Sunday. And, after moving down the river for a short time, they came upon an unfamiliar waterfall that caused Ward’s kayak to wreck. Ward was able to free himself from the damaged kayak and get to shore at the same location where Brown had made it to shore himself. Ward only sustained minor scrapes and scratches. As the two friends developed a plan to find their way back to their vehicles, nightfall came and they decided to seek shelter instead.

“We were planning for the worst, but hoping for the best.” said Overton County 911 Director Chris Massiongale. “These are two very lucky gentlemen who made a smart decision to stay put for the night."

Ward told rescuers that the two "came upon a little shack and decided to stay the night there, then try to find our way back after daybreak. We are just very blessed.”

Rescuers from Overton, Putnam, and Jackson County Rescue Squads met soon after daybreak on Monday morning to begin a detailed search, including swift-water rescue crews and rope rescue crews to search along the river and over the rugged terrain. The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s helicopter was also utilized in the search, and was able to find the two abandoned kayaks overnight. CHS Principal Wayne Shanks and School Resource Officer Bill Harris were also on scene Monday to join in the search for the missing men.

“We are just really glad that these guys were not hurt and they are able to rejoin their families and friends,” said Massiongale.