CHARLESTON — The name of the kayaker who went missing Sunday on the Middle Fork River was released early Wednesday evening.
Jamie L. Gray, 41, has been missing since her kayak overturned Sunday, according to Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the W.Va. Department of Military Affairs.
The incident was first reported at about 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9 by members of Gray’s kayaking group, who told Barbour County emergency dispatchers that her boat flipped over and she went under water about an hour earlier. The experienced group of about 10 kayakers were boating down river from Audra State Park, toward where the Middle Fork meets the Tygart River.
The accident occurred just downstream from — but not actually in — Audra Park, Messina said.
The search was suspended Monday due to weather conditions and water levels; however, Messina said DNR police have since coordinated multiple drone flights over the area, “but without any sightings.”
“As has been the approach since Sunday, DNR Police will assess conditions in the morning and proceed accordingly,” Messina said. “It is not yet known when conditions will allow for personnel to re-enter the water to continue recovery operations.”
Messina said searchers have not yet been able to enter the water.
“The weather in the area and the resulting conditions at the scene continued to prevent searchers from entering the water,” Messina wrote in an email to My Buckhannon on Wednesday. “For some perspective: the water level was four feet on Sunday; this morning, it was above nine feet.”
According to U.S. Geological Survey data, the river gauge at Audra registered about 4.3 feet at the time of the accident Sunday afternoon. 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.
A flash flood watch issued by the National Weather Service Wednesday is expected to remain in effect through Thursday.
Messina also said DNR police are urging “would-be volunteers” to refrain from attempting to recover Gray.
“DNR Police urges the public or would-be volunteers who are not part of the response to this tragedy to avoid this area or attempts to attempt their own recovery or search efforts,” Messina wrote in a second email to My Buckhannon later Wednesday evening. “DNR Police and the other entities involved in the response have sufficient resources as they continue to assess and monitor conditions at the scene.”