Meridian Star

January 29, 2013

Search Suspended

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     The week long search for the body of a man who is believed to have drowned on the Chunky River is being suspended, according to authorities.

    David Sharp, executive director of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency, said Monday afternoon officials were stopping the search operations after more than a week of scouring the swollen river along a stretch near Stuckey Bridge. Sharp said one last sonar sweep was conducted Monday morning into early afternoon before the decision was made.

    "We have exhausted all of our options," said Sharp. "I hate this for the family's sake but we have not been able to turn up anything substantial that would make us believe we are close to finding the victim."

    Marcus L. Smith, 56, was in a canoe with two other men Jan. 19 when it turned over into the swift, cold waters of the Chunky River two miles upriver from Stuckey Bridge. The two survivors were able to reach the bank but Smith was swept downriver the survivors told authorities. Sharp said searchers recovered the canoe and other items that were in the canoe. The items were scattered among fallen trees and other debris along the river banks.

    Sharp said Lauderdale County volunteer firefighters, LEMA, Lamar County and Newton County Emergency Management Agency personnel, and officers with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks searched for a week to locate Smith.

    Recent heavy rains pushed the river over the bank, complicating search efforts. On Monday, the river was still about four feet above normal. Sharp said the inability to get a diver into the water was a setback, as was the strength of the current that made boat operations such as sonar sweeps and dragging especially dangerous for search crews.     

    "Controlling the boat while at the same time making sure everyone is being safe has been a challenge," said Sharp.

    Sharp said law enforcement officials in the counties through which the Chunky River and its tributaries flow have been notified the search here is over and to be on the lookout for any indication of Smith's body, which may have been swept further south. Sharp said he believed officers with the MDWFP would continue to monitor the area around Stuckey Bridge.