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Sunday, May 1, 2016

High water stalls search for Putnam County man

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Putnam County resident David Pritchett is missing after launching his kayak onto a flooded field near Big Walnut Creek Tuesday evening. Pritchett's kayak is pictured above. Neither Pritchett nor the kayak were found as of Wednesday night.
REELSVILLE -- The search for a Putnam County man who has not returned from a kayak trip on Big Walnut Creek near Putnamville was hindered by high water levels, officials said.

David Pritchett, 48, reportedly launched a kayak in a flooded field with his dog following him on land near his home at approximately 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

As of 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, officials had called off the search due to high water and flood conditions.

Jack Giles, the Reelsville Fire Department safety officer, said they were playing a waiting game until the water level goes down.

"We're just going to let it be at a standstill right now until the water recedes and is safe enough to get small crafts in to check the water ways and smaller areas we haven't been able to check."

Giles said the search party was able to get "quite a bit in" before having to temporarily stop the search.

"We covered all the main overpass bridges and some of the lower areas until the DNR and myself finally made the decision that we were going to call it off today because it was really too risky to go any farther into it until the water came down a little," Giles said.

The search began at approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday after concerned family members reported Pritchett's absence. A search by land and water ended at approximately 2 a.m. before resuming Wednesday morning.

Pritchett was last seen wearing a tan short-sleeve button-up shirt, blue pants, brown hip waders, and was possibly wearing a yellow life jacket. The kayak he was using is green in color, authorities said.

Indiana Conservation officers and Indiana State Police personnel joined family members and Reelsville and Cloverdale fire department personnel in the search Tuesday evening.

As the search resumed Wednesday morning volunteers from the Cloverdale Fire Department accessed the banks via ATV wherever possible, while Reelsville Volunteer Fire Department personnel were staged atop nearby bridges, using binoculars to scour the area for any sign of the missing kayaker until the search was called off. There were also airboats used, and helicopters from local news stations checking from the sky.

Conservation Officer Max Winchell said Pritchett's dog returned home Wednesday afternoon.

Liz Christopher, a volunteer with the Reelsville Fire Department, was one of the people staged on a bridge. She said she was out for around two to three hours, looking for signs of the kayaker.

"The water level was very high and it was moving fast. The water was dirty, there was a lot of debris in it," Christopher said.

Christopher agreed with the decision to end the search.

"Based on the water conditions, it would make searching longer very difficult," she said. "We covered a good span of terrain and it would be really hard to access the other areas now."

Giles said initially just the search in the water itself was called off. He said the search along the bank was then called off for fear that someone would fall in. Chris Springstun one of the conservation officers who was on the water, agreed.

"The conditions are not right for a search," he said. "That current is very swift."

Springstun was on an airboat. He said the waves knocked his boat around.

Giles said he couldn't determine when the search would resume.

"They're saying later this week we're supposed to have some more rain coming in," he said. "I don't know how much accumulation of the rain there will be.

"Hopefully we don't get as much as what we've had in the last day and a half. It looks like it's going to be a bit of time before we can do another bank to bank search, though," he said.

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Our thoughts are with Mr. Pritchett's family.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Thu, Apr 21, 2011, at 10:09 AM

We will be praying for Mr. Pritchetts family and friends know that everyone is feeling for you.

-- Posted by putnam resident311 on Thu, Apr 21, 2011, at 11:15 PM

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