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The area surrounding a sinkhole in the Spring River will remain blocked off as the state begins an evaluation of the riverbed, officials said Friday.

Geologists discovered the sinkhole near Sadler Falls in early June when a kayaker died after being sucked into the whirlpool that resulted from the sinkhole.

Donald Wright, 64, who worked as executive director of the halfway house Life Recovery Center in Searcy, drowned while floating with a group in the area known as Dead Man's Curve below Sadler Falls.

Wright was trying to help after another person's canoe got caught in the whirlpool , but Wright's kayak capsized and he was sucked into the whirlpool.

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Photos by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Commissioner of State Lands John Thurston announced after meeting Thursday with members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that his office had enlisted a consultant to evaluate the area and that the assessment will begin as soon as Monday.

"This matter is of the utmost importance and urgency, as evidenced by the very tragic loss of life recently," Thurston said in a release Friday. "The matter is compounded by the anticipated increase of traffic due to the upcoming holiday."

He said his office is involved in the repair of the sinkhole because the state owns the riverbed.

Keith Stephens, spokesman for the Game and Fish Commission, said several buoys and ropes cordon off the area and that currently there is no passage past the sinkhole.

Stephens said the agency will continue to monitor and restrict access to the area as needed.

State Desk on 06/23/2018

Print Headline: State sets evaluation of sinkhole in river

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