The Daily Reformer
INDIANAPOLIS — Search efforts were suspended Wednesday night and are expected to resume Thursday morning for a missing 17-year-old boy who fell out of an overturned canoe on the White River on Indianapolis’ near west side.
It happened around 7 p.m. Tuesday when the canoe went over the Emrichsville Dam and capsized, sending those on board into the water.
A witness told FOX59 they called 911 the moment they saw the group in distress and helped direct first responders to where this happened, but beyond that, there wasn’t much more anyone could do.
“It’s like you’re just standing there and there’s nothing you can do. You want to help but you know if you jump in, too, that current is gonna take you under,” said a young woman who was with family in the area fishing as the situation unfolded.
“He fought and really tried. It was just really sad. He fought and went under. It was just nothing else he could do,” she said.
Officials say the boy was with a 45-year-old man and a dog at the time of the accident. Both the man and dog were able to get out of the water, and were helped to shore by witnesses, but the boy did not make it out.
Family has identified the missing teen as Kevin Josue Flores Rodriguez. They say he is a humble young worker who helps his mother financially because she is a widow and has no other assistance.
They moved to America from Honduras, and family said he wanted more than anything to write his own path to success in life.
Through tears, family members asked if anyone has information on his location or witnessed what happened, that they call the authorities handling the investigation.
Conservation Police say the search efforts have shifted to a recovery effort. They’re canvassing the area by boat and using sonar, walking by foot along the shore and monitoring overhead by drone.
During Wednesday’s search, which was coordinated with the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD), the choice was made not to put divers in the water unless a confirmed location of the victim was given.
Indiana DNR Conservation Officer Lt. Angela Goldman said, “All of the rainfall we got last week is still — you can still see that in this river behind me. It’s moving. We’re not at flood stage, but it is moving fairly quickly.”
“Right now, this river is flowing fast enough that it’s just not really safe for us to put divers in the water right now to search,” Goldman said, “especially when it’s such a large search area.”
“As soon as we get something confirmed, we want to bring closure to that family, so we’ll go ahead and do that.”
She also said running sonar under the water becomes increasingly more difficult when it is moving so quickly.
Goldman said right now, the top priority of rescue crews is finding the boy and helping bring closure to his family.
“We have an idea based on witness accounts where his last known location was but certainly that’s gonna change as the river moves downstream,” she said.
They hope to locate him soon but recognize these types of operations have the potential to take days, even weeks, depending on the conditions.
“This is a long-haul operation. Often times if we don’t find them right away, this could be days, this could be weeks before we locate them,” said Goldman. “We know we’re in it for the long haul but we’re gonna stick with it to bring closure to that family.”
FOX59 asked Goldman whether there are signs posted on the river, warning of the dangers ahead when they are approaching hazards like a dam.
She said, “There are signs upriver. What’s interesting is that they actually just started they put in the canoe right here and had no intention of floating downstream in it.”
“They got swept up in the current and went over the dam,” said Goldman.
Goldman encourages anyone who is embarking on the water — whether it be by boat, kayak, canoe, or other means — to learn of the area before heading out.
“If you’re going to get on a river it is your responsibility to know what hazards are out there. There are several dams in the White River here in the metropolitan Indianapolis area,” she said, “so it is imperative that if you’re gonna go out you need to know those locations.”
If you do plan to head out on the river, Goldman said she can’t stress enough the importance of wearing a life jacket.
“You can be a strong swimmer, you can get caught in that current, go over a dam, get caught in a strainer in the water, all of those things can negate your swimming skills,” she said.
“It is so important to have your life jacket on out here on the water.”
According to officials, life jackets were not being worn by anyone on board at the time of the accident.
“We’ve got a lot of good parts of our job and this is not one of them,” said Goldman, “but the most important thing we can do, and it’s what we work for, is bringing closure to this family.”
Anyone with information or who may have observed Flores Rodriguez exiting the water or in the area is asked to call DNR Law Enforcement Central Dispatch at 812-837-9536.