Updated 6:27 p.m. A 2008 Houston High School graduate who disappeared on the Big Piney River during a floating trip with five friends Wednesday afternoon was found alive and unharmed, Texas County Sheriff Carl Watson said.
The boy, who disappeared when his canoe tipped over, was discovered downstream when he floated to a private access point, Watson said. Trooper Terry Nelson had just arrived at the location when he saw the boy near the Sand Shoal access.
“(His friends) feared the worst and so did we,” said Watson, who made it clear that alcohol was not involved. “Thank the good Lord it turned out the way it did.”
Watson said six boys, who all graduated Saturday from Houston High School, entered the river in three canoes at the Mineral Springs Access. About one-half mile downstream, one of the canoes tipped and lost its gear. One of the boys went after the articles and was separated from the group.
Unable to find the missing boy, one person from the group traveled back to the Mineral Springs Access and called for help.
Watson said one of the boys accompanied a Texas County deputy in a canoe to look for the missing boater. Four deputies waded through the river, and Watson was at one of several private accesses along the Piney thanks to the help of Ozark Mountain Outfitters.
Nelson had just arrived at one private access, which Watson said was several miles from where the canoe tipped, when the missing boy floated to him.
Watson described the river as full and swift. He said the conditions were right for a canoe to tip over.
“They were boys out for a good time and had the misfortune of tipping over and getting into the river,” Watson said.