Jamie Gray

Body of missing kayaker recovered Monday

The body of a kayaker who had been missing for more than a week was recovered on Monday.

“The body of kayaker Jamie Lynn Gray was located and recovered late this afternoon, about 1.5 miles downstream from where she was last seen,” Lawrence Messina, communications director for the DNR and the W.Va. Department of Military Affairs, said in an email Monday evening.

“The family has been notified,” Messina added. “Further information is expected Tuesday.”

Gray, 41, of Hacker Valley, W.Va., had been missing since her kayak overturned February 9

The recovery came a day after a large search and recovery operation was launched on the Middle Fork River.

“Aided by ropes and cables, personnel were able to re-enter the stretch of the Middle Fork below Audra State Park for the first time Sunday after rain and weather created hazardous conditions at the scene,” Messina wrote Sunday night.

“Some 83 rescue personnel from multiple entities took part Sunday,” Messina said. “The searchers cleared debris and deployed an underwater camera as part of their efforts.”

Sunday’s search centered on the area where Gray was last seen by members of her kayaking group.

“At around 1:53 p.m. [on Feb. 9] while about one half-mile below Audra State Park, Gray’s kayak capsized and she was swept downstream,” Messina said in a previous email. “A short distance from where she capsized, Gray was swept under a large rock in the river and never resurfaced. Members of her group attempted to reach where she was last seen, but were unsuccessful.”

The experienced group of about 10 kayakers were boating down river from Audra State Park, toward where the Middle Fork meets the Tygart River. Gray’s kayak and life jacket were recovered downriver.

The river, which was closed over the weekend as crews searched for Gray, reopened Sunday, Feb. 16.

Sunday’s large operation followed a week of on-and-off search efforts that were hampered by rain, snow and high water.

In the hours after Gray was reported missing on Feb. 9, search and rescue crews cut a path through rugged terrain to reach the area where Gray was last seen, but were unable to locate her.

The following day, “DNR Police, State Police and other personnel trained in water rescue and recovery returned to the area,” Messina said. “Over the course of that day, they encountered worsening weather including heavy rains that caused the river levels to rise. Conditions in that stretch of the Middle Fork became too dangerous for rescue personnel, while shoreline searches were also conducted.”

According to U.S. Geological Survey data, the river gauge at Audra registered about 4.3 feet at the time of the accident. While that is higher than normal, it is within the American Whitewater recommended flow range of 3.2-6.0 feet for that section of the Middle Fork River, which includes Class III and IV rapids, or intermediate to advanced.

By Tuesday, Feb. 11, the river level had risen to nearly 9 feet, according to Messina, which prevented personnel from entering the water.

“The W.Va. Division of Forestry and the Marion and Monongalia County offices of Emergency Services have offered assistance including multiple drone aircraft and pilots to search the area and downstream from where the incident occurred,” Messina added.

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