Bluff-Diving Fatality and Search on Upper Buffalo River

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Date: June 1, 2013
Contact: Caven Clark, 870/365-2790

At approximately2 pmon Friday, May 31, Newton County 911 was notified by cell phone of an accident that took place just downstream from Erbie on theBuffaloRiverat a place known as the Charcoal Fields. 

The reporting party said that the 28 year-old male had dived off of a 25-foot bluff face first and had failed to surface. Water depth at the scene was approximately 10 feet. First on scene wereNationalPark Service Search and Rescue (SAR) augmented by Newton County Search and Rescue Team and the Mennonite Disaster Service. Staging out of Pruitt on Highway 7 boats, including two with sonar devices, initiated the search until operations were suspended at nightfall.

BuffaloRiverwatershed had received significant rainfall on Thursday evening-Friday morning, therivergage upstream at Ponca reading “high”. Search conditions were also hampered by zero visibility through the turbid water. On Saturday morning the search teams prepared to resume operations, but heavy rains throughout the night had broughtriverconditions to the full flood stage, making further efforts hazardous. At the time of this writing, parties are standing by to resume efforts asriverlevels in the part of theBuffalobegin to recede.

Downstream in the middle and lower reaches of theBuffaloRiver, park service rangers warned visitors of impending flood waters, asking them to relocate on higher ground and move any vehicles on or near a gravel bar. As a reminder, these flood events are typically sudden and short-lived, but are extremely unpredictable with respect to location and magnitude. Floaters and campers should always be aware of weather forecasts and potential risks while planning their activities. Cell phone coverage is very spotty throughout the park and cannot be relied upon. In addition to 911 services,BuffaloNationalRiver’s dispatch center may be reached at 888/692-1162.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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