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Crews suspend search of Puyallup River for missing rafter

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on July 2, 2013 at 6:57 am with No Comments »
July 2, 2013 3:53 pm
A searcher pokes around a clump of logs in the Puyallup River on Tuesday morning. (Lui Kit Wong/staff photographer)
A searcher pokes around a clump of logs in the Puyallup River on Tuesday morning. (Lui Kit Wong/staff photographer)

UPDATE, 3:53 p.m.: Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer identifies missing man as Austin Smith of South Hill.

UPDATE, 11:25 a.m.: Lt. Cindy Fajardo, the official in charge of the Pierce County search and rescue team, said the ground search has been suspended due to fast-moving currents and very low visibility in the Puyallup River.

“It is treacherous,” she said.

The search teams had experienced some difficulties with debris in the river from mountain runoff as a result of this week’s heat wave.

Fajardo estimated the search teams may not be able to continue the search for a couple of weeks, and more hot weather could increase the speed and diminish the visibility in the water further.

“It’s all up to Mother Nature,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo said the innertube used by the missing man was recovered intact. She couldn’t comment whether drugs or alcohol are believed to be involved in the incident.

The man was not wearing a life jacket and was only wearing a pair of shorts, Fajardo said.

Below is a media briefing by Fajardo:

UPDATE, 11 a.m.: Bad visibility and dangerous, fast-moving conditions in the Puyallup River are prompting ground crews to suspend their search for the day.

Airplanes will continue to search for the missing man.

UPDATE, 9 a.m.: There are eight search boats on the river now. Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, Orting Fire, Puyallup Tribal Police and Pierce County sheriff’s deputies are responding.

Deputy J. Sousley from Pierce County said “We’re in recovery mode.”

UPDATE: Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said the missing man is a 25-year-old resident of the South Hill area.

He and two friends got into the river with innertubes  upstream of Sumner about 6 p.m., Troyer said.

The two friends got out of the river about 8 p.m. and waited for their buddy to catch up. When he hadn’t shown up by 10 p.m. they began their own search then called authorities about midnight, Troyer said.

Authorities then launched their own search but were hindered by darkness, Troyer said. They did find the missing man’s tube but no sign of him, he said.

The man was not wearing a life vest.

Authorities have boats in the water, searchers on shore and an airplane overhead Tuesday morning.

They also are searching nearby parks and wooded areas in case the man got out of the water but got lost in the darkness, Troyer said.

PREVIOUS POST: Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies will resume searching Tuesday morning for a rafter who went missing on the Puyallup River near Sumner overnight.

The person became separated from other rafters about 1 a.m., East Pierce Fire & Rescue reported.

Authorities searched until about 4 a.m. before calling off the operation because of darkness.

They will resume the search in the area of 80th Street East and state Route 162 about 7:30 a.m.

No word as to the missing person’s age, gender or hometown.

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