Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hope fades for missing De Soto man

April 23, 2008

Crews continued searching but as of Wednesday morning haven't found the 26-year-old De Soto man who fell into the Kansas River on Saturday when the canoe he was in capsized.

"I just want to find him, find the body, so we can have closure," said Michael Shaw, younger brother of the missing man.

Michael Shaw said he expected additional help in the search Tuesday from a St. Louis company expected to bring additional equipment.

Between 30 and 40 people gathered for a vigil near the river Monday night.

Shaun Shaw and friends were hunting for mushrooms on the Wakarusa River on Saturday when they hit rough waters near the Weaver Bottoms, about one and a half miles from Eudora. Shaw and his friends stood up to stabilize the canoe as they floated from the Wakarusa River into the Kaw. The canoe capsized, spilling the men and their lifejackets into the water.

As Shaw's friends struggled to swim ashore, battling cold water and an undertow, they watched him cry for help. Eventually they decided to find assistance, trudging in heavy, wet work boots to Kenna Wright's house.

The men were soaking and desperately trying to find help for their friend Shaw who was swept away by the Kansas River, after their canoe capsized Saturday evening. Rescue crews worked from 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday, using boats and helicopters to look for Shaw. On Sunday afternoon, they said the operation had switched from a rescue to a recovery, all but giving up hope that Shaw would be found alive.

Wright, whose home sits atop a hill about half a mile from the Kansas River, described the chaotic scene, detailing the men's frantic trek through muddy, marshy land, across railroad tracks and up her hilly property, the closest home to the river.

"They were very upset when I saw them," she said. "They were chatting and couldn't stop talking about their friend. They didn't know if they had done right by coming up here or going down there, or what they should have done."

Sgt. Blake McCall, of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, said a 911 call came in at 5:48 p.m. and a search party was organized, using helicopters from the Kansas Highway Patrol and LifeStar to search for Shaw from above. Boats from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks were dispatched to the river.

While the search is now in recovery mode, Shaw's aunt, Lawrence resident Liz Phillips, was clinging to hope Sunday.

"There's always hope that he's on the bank someplace," she said. "We'll hold out hope as long as we can."

David Ellis, Kansas City district supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said his department, continued to look for Shaw Sunday near the spot where he was last seen. Ellis said boats would use a drag bar to comb the riverbed. A flat-bottomed boat patrolled the river Sunday afternoon.

The river's varying depths could prove challenging to the recovery, Ellis said.

"The river's always a challenge, no matter whether you're familiar with it or not. We're just going to do the best we can," he said.

Wright was still shaken a day after she helped Shaw's friends. She had difficulty sleeping Saturday night because of the experience.

"I've had a lot of time to reflect on that," she said. "I just wish I could have done something more than call 911.

Sophia Maines contributed to this story.

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