As of Thursday the missing kayaker, who fell from his boat in the Lackawaxen River Friday afternoon, June 14, had not been found. His identity was released on Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission following notification of next of kin.
The missing kayaker is Shawn Martin, 29 years of age, from Beach Lake.
Wayne Rosengrant, chief of Forest Volunteer Fire Department, the lead search and rescue agency in the effort. said that they have had searchers out every day. Although they were advised after the intense multi-agency search last weekend that they would need to back down, Rosengrant said they just can't do that.
While the toll is very great on the volunteers, he said it doesn't match the anguish the family is experiencing.
He said that everyone wants a successful conclusion to this, and to bring some closure to the family. In his 20 years with the fire department, he said they have never had a recovery effort- of someone that is deceased- but have had numerous rescues.
Martin and another kayaker, a male whose name has not been released, were on the Lackawaxen near the Kimbles Bridge Friday afternoon when they became separated from their boats. The other kayaker was able to safely reach the shore.
The water was high and moving fast. The Chief said he has seen it running even higher, but the conditions were probably ideal for white water rafting. Rafts, canoes and kayaks are frequently taken to the Lackawaxen at Kimbles, where discharge from PPL's hydroelectric plant creates rapids.
It was not clear how the accident occurred, but the two kayaks rolled over when passing under the bridge, and the occupants spilled out. They floated towards the first island and each floated separate ways in the rushing water.
Although it was said Martin had not been wearing a life jacket, Rosengrant said he was not clear if that was the case. It could have been he had it on but the jacket slipped off in the turbulent water. He also did not know if the victim was wearing a safety helmet. Both Martin's life jacket and kayak were found.
Rosengrant said that anyone on the Lackawaxen should be wearing a life jacket and a helmet. The latter helps protect the boater from being injured on the rocks.
PA Fish & Boat Commission requires that personal floatation devices be carried aboard canoes or kayaks, or boats less than 16 feet long. They must be worn, by law, during cold weather months, November 1 to April 30. Children under 12 must wear them on any boat 20 feet or less or on a canoe or kayak.
At 3:11 p.m., Friday, June 14, a call was sent out for emergency rescue agencies to Kimbles Road and Township Road 487. Forest Volunteer Fire Department; Lackawaxen Fire Department; Greeley Fire Department sent boats, rescue vehicles or support; Central sent a brush truck and ATV; Dingman Twp., Westfall Twp. and Ledgedale Fire Departments sent boats and Tafton Fire & Rescue sent support. Hemlock Farms Fire & Rescue also assisted.
Page 2 of 3 - National Park Service also was helping in the search, both on water and by road patrols.
Pennsylvania State Police and New York State Police each conducted helicopter searches; New York used a thermal imaging camera.
Rosengrant expressed his gratitude for all mutual aid agencies and made special note of Kittatiny Canoes and Two River Junction, both which supplied rafts at no charge.
There were ATVs taken down the railroad tracks on the south side of the Lackawaxen. Foot searches were made of all the river islands.
Early on, while it was still considered a rescue effort, ropes were dangled from bridges in hopes the victim could grab hold.
PPL has been very cooperative, Rosengrant said, by shutting down the discharge tubes from the power plant at certain times to allow the river to slow down and level drop. This allowed their dive team to check out a hole near the Kimbles Bridge, although they suspected Martin had gone past this point.
In most cases dive teams were not able to be used. The water was moving much too fast- 16 to 20 knots, at first. The river is too shallow in most spots, and the water was so brown and murky. Rosengrant said that the visibility in the water was no more than three inches.
This means it was entirely possible for the victim to have floated right past searchers, several inches below the water. He may also have drifted downstream at night when it was too risky to continue searching. He could have become snagged temporarily and then kept moving.
For all they know, he could have reached the Delaware River.
Eventually the body is expected to make its way to the surface, but it's already been six days and there has been no sighting.
During the weekend there were several other boaters in the river but they got out of the water when they saw a search and rescue was underway. Anyone in the public that has a sighting is asked to call 9-1-1.
Rosengrant spoke highly of the dedication of his volunteers as well as from the other agencies. Although it is very tough on everyone, he says they continue to have people leaving for work early and looking further from the Towpath Road or gone out after work. Since Sunday it has been mainly Forest Volunteer though on Tuesday volunteers from Tafton Fire & Rescue came down.
He stated it is personal for him, since when he was a child, he lost a brother to drowning. He said he understands what families go through.
The Chief said he is very proud of the volunteers. He said his department has a lot of compassion and their hearts are broken for the family.
Page 3 of 3 -