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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Fire and rescue personnel stand by Wednesday morning at Beaver Lake in the Coppermine community east of Rogers. Officials were searching for a woman reported missing Tuesday evening.

The search for a missing 21-year-old woman will continue today at Beaver Lake.

Searchers headquartered at Coppermine Lodge, north of Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, pulled in their boats about 4 p.m. Wednesday in advance of a line of severe storms. The National Weather Service in Tulsa, Okla., issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 4 p.m. anticipating 60 mph wind and quarter-sized hail for Benton County.

Crews started work at 7 a.m. Wednesday to get ahead of storms forecast later in the afternoon, said Alan Bland, a ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Five people, teens and adults, were in a canoe towing a paddle boat on Tuesday when the canoe capsized, Bland said.

"They all scattered when they hit the water," Bland said.

A 911 call came in at 3:59 p.m. Tuesday from 8411 Ridgecrest Lane after a resident saw two people who managed to swim to shore, said Keshia Guyll, spokeswoman for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. The initial report was for a stranded boat. Fire and rescue teams were called out at 5:05 p.m. and Rocky Branch Fire Department and Rogers Fire Department responded.

A sheriff's deputy searching by boat brought two other people to shore from a sandbar on the lake, said Jerry Oliver, Rocky Branch Fire Department chief.

The group was shaken and it took 30 to 45 minutes for rescuers to get their stories straight, Oliver said. There was confusion about how many people had been in the group -- the four who had made it to shore, or five. A search of the water was started Tuesday night and called off at 8 p.m.

Crews also searched along the shore Tuesday in hopes the missing woman had made it to land.

"That's a long swim," Oliver said.

Bland estimated the sandbar was about 100 yards from land. The overloaded canoe was between the shore and the narrow island when it began to sink.

A squall line moved through while the group was on the lake Tuesday, complicating matters, Oliver said.

"It was very windy. The lake was really rough. That's what got them," Oliver said.

Two of the five people had personal flotation devices, Oliver said. The missing woman was one of those who didn't, Bland said.

Water temperature could have also played a role in the incident. The air was warm, but water temperatures weren't. Bland estimated the water to be 60 degrees at the surface.

"Within a minute it can set you to hypothermia," Bland said.

Searchers used sonar to search, sweeping about a quarter-mile square area between the sandbar and the shore, Bland said. The sonar searchers used a torpedo-shaped piece of equipment dragged behind the boat to map the bottom of the lake to a screen above. If there is an object below that could be a body, the location is flagged and divers sent to investigate.

No one involved in the incident was able to pinpoint where they were when the canoe capsized and no one saw the woman go under. Without a specific location, the search will take longer. The water is about 85 feet deep in the search area, Bland said.

All search boats were off the lake by 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, said Robert McGowen, Benton County emergency management director.

The American Red Cross supported the search by providing meals, McGowen said. The dive teams are volunteers and he was looking for other teams to help with the search.

"It's a large area we're having to search. I hope we'll have good weather tomorrow like we did today," McGowen said late Wednesday.

Agencies involved in the search include the Benton County Sheriff's Office, Rocky Branch Fire Department, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Benton County Emergency Management, Benton and Carroll County dive teams, the Benton County coroner and the Mennonite Disaster Service Team.

NW News on 03/26/2015

Print Headline: Incident spurs Beaver Lake search


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