JUNCTION, Texas — Two of four missing people were found dead Thursday, four days after sudden flooding of the South Llano River swept away an RV park in Junction.
Searchers found the bodies about 2 p.m., “approximately nine miles downstream from the South Llano Recreational Vehicle Park in Junction,” according to a news release from the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Authorities did not identify the victims, and the other two remained missing Thursday evening.
The people reported missing were San Angelo resident Darin Hartman and Flomaton, Alabama, residents Mike McGee, Charlotte Moye and Joey Huss.
Kimble County Emergency Coordinator Randy Millican said about 80 people were assisting in the search Thursday, including two Texas Task Force teams.
The Forest Service release stated more than 100 interagency personnel were working together, led by the Kimble County Sheriff’s Office.
Friends and family of the missing arrived from Alabama and teamed up with experienced searchers, Millican said, adding the list of volunteers from the area was getting longer and longer.
“We are trying to be mindful of the searchers’ safety. The terrain is rough and there are things to watch out for, such as snakes,” he said. “We don’t want to get to a situation where the searchers are searching for other searchers.”
According to the Forest Service, “Additional volunteers or in-kind donations are not being sought. The public is welcome to make monetary contributions to the Junction Chamber of Commerce,” which can be reached at 325-446-3190.
The search initially concentrated on a 30-mile radius around the RV park. It expanded “into Mason County and concentrated on areas where the water level has receded,” according to the Forest Service news release.
Search resources included a fixed-wing aircraft typically used to locate pipelines.
“They are using the technology to isolate the debris and providing us with GPS coordinates for our teams to go in,” Millican said.
Steve Turner, brother of Charlotte Moye, said his sister came to Texas with their cousin Janet Shultz. The two were meeting up with Shultz’s husband, who was working in Junction.
Hartman, McGee and Huss are employees of Tulsa-based Cypress Energy Management-TIR, LLC, and part of a crew inspecting a pipeline near Junction, said Richard Carson, senior vice president and general counsel for parent company Cypress Energy Partners, LLC.
The three had been on that assignment since July, Carson said. Hartman is a utility inspector, Huss an assistant chief inspector and McGee a lead welding inspector.
Carson said other members of the crew and their companions were among those rescued Monday, and all were recovered or recovering.
“We do have some of our employees down there that are assisting in search efforts,” pitching in and sharing costs, Carson said.
He said the company provided authorities with information about the men’s private vehicles, giving searchers a better idea of what to look for.
The search so far
The National Weather Service in San Angelo confirmed the flooding occurred when more than 11.5 inches of rain fell in a matter of hours early Monday. The Llano River crested at 31.2 feet, the sixth-highest level in Junction history. The highest was 43.3 feet, recorded June 14, 1935.
Nineteen people were rescued by air and boat Monday, and another 45 were rescued by officials giving them life jackets and throw ropes before the flooding reached its peak.
Among the rescued were two women who were pushed down the violent torrent for 20 miles or more before they were found separately.
Tuesday’s search efforts were hampered by more rain and another rise in the river.
Logan Scherschel, public information officer with Texas A&M Forest Service, said Tuesday evening 50 military personnel from Camp Mabry in Austin were expected to arrive the next day to aid with the search.
However, late Wednesday the Junction Police Department said on Facebook, “the additional personnel that we had planned for today were diverted to the Hurricane effort,” referring to Hurricane Michael, which hit Florida on Wednesday evening.
According to officials, Wednesday’s search effort, which took place on public and private land, included:
- 14 people and two rescue dogs from the Texas Military Department
- Helicopters from the Parks & Wildlife Department and Border Patrol
- Texas Parks & Wildlife personnel with a K-9 and a drone
Search teams uncovered four vehicles in and around the county park.
Luke Tillman, of Luke Tillman Land Improvement, provided a backhoe and helped dig out the vehicles, police said.
On Thursday, the Forest Service release said search resources included a high-altitude drone, a Texas Parks & Wildlife boat with sonar capabilities, a Texas Game Wardens helicopter and a fixed-wing Cessna 208-B provided by a private company, L3 Technologies. The Cessna was “performing reconnaissance with enhanced geographic information system (GIS) capability,” the release states.
Additionally, K-9 teams and boat crews combed “miles of river water and banks.”
It is unclear how much longer the search may last.
Anyone with questions about the search efforts is encouraged to contact Millican at 214-289-9045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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