Jun 14, 2010 11:02 PM by Chris Welty
LANGLEY, Ark. (AP) - Crews on Monday found the body of a young
girl who was the 20th victim of a flash flood that devastated a
popular Arkansas campground, but they continued searching because
it wasn't clear whether the girl was the last person reported
Officials had said earlier that they still were looking for a
young girl missing from the Albert Pike Recreation Area campground.
But State Police Capt. Fletcher said searchers weren't sure if the
girl whose body they found was the same one reported missing by her
Police will wait to announce the girl's name until her identity
is confirmed by dental records or DNA, Fletcher said.
Dozens of people were feared missing after the pre-dawn Friday
flood, but authorities narrowed their search Sunday to just one
person known to have been camping at the Albert Pike Recreation
Area. They said they believe many others first feared missing were
camping in other parts of the state, without cell phone coverage.
State police and other agencies were to decide Monday night
whether to continue the search Tuesday, spokesman Bill Sadler said.
"We did have some names of individuals whose families did come
to us with direct evidence or information of persons present in the
park and we believe we have identified all of those individuals in
one way or the other," Sadler said.
"Is that to say that there are not any other victims in the
Little Missouri River? We can't say that, that is why there is a
continuing search and recovery operation under way."
A heavy storm sent a wall of water rushing down the river while
most campers were sleeping, leaving them scrambling in the dark for
safety amid the area's steep terrain. Floodwaters rose up to 8 feet
per hour, pouring through the remote valley with such force that
they peeled asphalt from roads. Cabins along the river banks were
severely damaged, and mobile homes were tossed on their sides.
Forecasters had warned of the approaching danger in the area
during the night, but campers could easily have missed the
advisories because the area is isolated and cell phone service is
Crews had searched some fifty miles of river and tributaries at
least twice, and three or four times in some areas, Forest Service
Incident Commander Mike Quesinberry said. The terrain made it
impossible to bring in heavy equipment to unlock some of the huge
debris piles that collected along the river. One measured 30 feet
high and more than 100 feet long, he said.
"This is an area that's so rugged, there's so much debris ...
you can't get to it," Fletcher said.
Eighteen of the 20 victims have been publicly identified, among
them seven children age 7 or younger. Eight of the 18 were from
Louisiana, seven were from Texas and three were from Arkansas.
Among the victims were 23-year-old Leslie Jez and her 3-year-old
son, Kaden, of Foreman, Ark., and Jez's 43-year-old mother, Sheri
Wade, of New Boston, Texas. Leslie's husband and Kaden's father,
Adam Jez, survived.
The family set out to the campground Thursday, a day earlier
than normal because of Adam's work schedule. It was a decision that
"(Kaden's) only vocabulary when it wasn't 'mama' and 'daddy'
consisted of tractors and horses," Leslie's grandfather, former
Arkansas legislator Charles "Bubba" Wade, said Sunday. "I can
just see her holding the baby" during the flood, Wade said, his
words choked with grief.
Wade said camping trips and the outdoors were commonplace for
his large family. His children and grandchildren went to Boy and
Girl Scout events at the campground, and Kaden and Leslie rode
horses and rounded up cattle together.
"Little Kaden had been up here on my 81st birthday, sitting on
my lap with cowboy boots on," said Wade, who spent 18 years as a
state lawmaker and introduced the legislation that created the
nearby Millwood State Park.