CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety officials have confirmed the identity of a woman missing and believed drowned on the Middle Fork River in Barbour County. According to Lawrence Messina, communications director for the agency, she’s Jamie L. Gray, 41, of Hacker Valley, W.Va.
Gray was among a group of 10 experienced kayakers who set out for a day on the water Sunday. The trip turned tragic downstream from Audra State Park in an area which is extremely remote and hard to access from the land. Conditions on the water have only worsened since the incident and have forced the West Virginia Natural Resources Police to suspend efforts to recover her body. The water level on Sunday around the time of the incident was up about four feet. Agency officials said the level Wednesday was up nine feet and with heavy rain overnight is likely to keep climbing.
The DNR has urged the public and would-be volunteers who are not part of the response to avoid the area or any attempts at recovery on their own. Natural Resources Police say they have sufficient resources and will continue to monitor and assess the water conditions at the scene. The efforts in the last couple of days have been limited to flying a drone over the area in surveillance, but so far no sign of Gray has been detected. Her kayak and paddle were recovered soon after the incident. Fellow paddlers with her at the time of the incident tell offices the swift current pulled her life jacket off of her, but it has not been recovered.
Division of Natural Resources law enforcement personnel on the scene tell MetroNews they remain fairly confident her body is in the same area where she went missing. The area is typically very swift with a lot of strong undercurrent and giant, submerged boulders.
A flash flood watch for the area where the search is centered remains in effect this morning.