May 25, 2011
Caven Clark, 870/365-2790
On Tuesday evening at approximately 7 pm, May 24, 2011, Newton County resident 21 year old David Boyd, disappeared in the Buffalo River while attempting to swim to the other side. The incident took place at Blue Hole, a small campground off of Highway 123 in Newton County. Buffalo National River dispatch was notified by Newton County Sherriff’s Office soon after the event took place. A witness on scene stated that Mr. Boyd was swept downstream, went underwater, surfaced but appeared “limp or very relaxed.”
Response efforts were mounted by National Park Service Protection Division Rangers who are coordinating the search efforts including Newton County Sherriff, Searcy County Dive Team, and Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Dive Team from Little Rock. At 8:30 am on Wednesday there were thirteen search teams combing the river banks in hopes that Mr. Boyd had managed to climb out to safety. One NPS boat was running from Mount Hersey to Carver using a sonar unit, and a raft was put in at Blue Hole working downstream, primarily searching the banks. By 10 am the efforts shifted from rescue to a recovery effort as hopes for survival diminished.
River conditions at the time of the incident were in flood stage and have continued to be in flood stage throughout the search and recovery process. Witness accounts noted that the river was very muddy and carrying a large amount of debris, clearly an unsafe situation for any type of swimming or boating activity. While Buffalo National River deeply regrets this tragedy, the ultimate cause leading to these situations comes from ill-advised decisions about safety and risk. The park has attempted to limit restrictions on visitor access and use of the river while at the same time reinforcing safety messages in the hopes that visitors will make informed decisions about what they are willing or not willing to undertake on the Buffalo.
All visitors, including area residents, are strongly encouraged to be as informed as possible about the risks of using the river, whether for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, or other activities, and understand that there is always the potential for accidents, even in low water conditions. With the Memorial Day weekend on the near horizon, please give some thought to common sense decisions and how they affect yourselves, your family, and your friends. Please remember that you may call Buffalo National River dispatch 24 hours a day at 888/692-1162 to report an emergency.