New Year's Day Search for Missing Teen Extends into Third Day

By David Moyers

Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 5:02 PM CST
(Updated) As of late afternoon Sunday, authorities planned to suspend the search for a missing Crossett youth until Monday morning as darkness arrived on the backwaters from the flooded Saline River.

Ashley County Sheriff David Johnson said Saturday afternoon that because of the dangers of the flooded area, searchers planned to suspend the search at darkness, with apparently the same thing planned on Sunday.

Ashley County Chief Deputy Marilyn Smith identified the missing youth as Dustin Evans, 19, of Ashley Road 4, Crossett. The search area is at the west end of Ashley Road 293 which is submerged due to backwater from the Saline River, even though the road is three to four miles from the river.

New developments on Sunday included the unsuccessful use of a cadaver dog to try to find the missing youth. In addition, men mounted on horses also began searching the area, also without success.

The sheriff and Smith said that Evans had been at a New Year's Eve party at a deer camp Thursday night and that no one has seen him since three to four a.m. Friday. Sheriff Johnson said that about 11 a. m. Friday, a duck hunter called the sheriff's office to report a partially submerged vehicle at the Ashley Road 293 location. The vehicle, a Pontiac SUV, apparently belonged to Evans, and the passenger door on the vehicle was open. As of Sunday afternoon, the sheriff estimated that the water was about eleven feet deep in places. He said that the water has risen about one to one and one-half feet since the vehicle was found.

Local emergency officials including the Hamburg and Crossett rescue units, Game and Fish officers, deputies and volunteers searched the area until darkness arrived Friday, and they then resumed the search Saturday morning. The sheriff noted that two private airplanes assisted in the search, and a helicopter also helped in the search. About 45 emergency personnel and volunteers searched in wooded areas as well as along the floodwater from the river on Saturday.

By Sunday, Sheriff Johnson said that about 100 people were involved in the search. Also, as of Sunday, the water levels were still rising. As of Saturday, the sheriff indicated that in the ditches along the road, the water was six to seven feet deep and was an estimated ten to twelve feet deep along a bridge. He said Sunday that if the floodwaters continued to rise, authorities might have to move their command post further up the hill.

The chief deputy said that from all accounts that Evans was alone in the vehicle.

Sheriff Johnson said that the extremely cold weather Friday night as well as continued cold weather Saturday and Sunday suggested that the efforts were a recovery rather than a rescue mission. He said that the water temperature Saturday afternoon was only about 38 degrees, making it unlikely that anyone could survive for a long period of time.

"We will stay here until he is found," the sheriff said, adding that the search will continue from daylight to dark each day.

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