Search for canoeist who fell in Yadkin River now a recovery mission

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WILKESBORO, N.C. — A rescue mission has now turned into a recovery search.

Wildlife officials spent all weekend looking for 25-year-old Damien Mayes.

“We started again at first light this morning and we’ve been working ever since,” said Wilkes Rescue Squad Chief Cole Wyatt.

It’s been all eyes on the Yadkin River since 3 p.m. Friday afternoon. On Sunday, a Sonar team came to scan the river bottom with no success.

Five different agencies had a total of 55 men and women packed right outside of the Roaring River Public Fishing Area on Saturday.

It’s where search teams brought in boats and other equipment to help find Mayes.

Wyatt says Mayes and another man rented a canoe at a nearby shop.

They began to paddle under the Red, White and Blue bridge when they drifted into the rapids.

“The river is moving,” said Wyatt. “The current is always changing”.

Moments later, the canoe was out of control in the rapids causing it to overturn.

The second man managed to swim to shore and called 911.

Crews searched the river around the bridge and 5,000 meters downstream.

“That’s our most likely point based on the river, our past history here and that’s our most likely point in finding him,” said Wyatt.

Sadly, rescue and recovery missions of this type are increasing.

“This is our sixth water rescue of the year,” said Wyatt.

He says out of those times, only two involved life jackets.

Wyatt says life vest were inside of the canoe Mayes and the other man was on, but were not being worn.

Word of what happened spread quickly as family members showed up.

All of them wanting closure in this sudden and tragic recovery mission.