FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The search for a missing kayaker in the Maumee River has now entered its second day. The Fort Wayne Fire Department began their search around 9 p.m. Tuesday when someone jogging saw three kayakers go over Hosey Dam, near North Anthony Boulevard.
Late Wednesday morning, crews wrapped up their search near the dam without finding 24-year-old Sean Hiebel of Fort Wayne. Friends have put together a flyer in hopes of finding him.
Thursday, crews focused on searching the surface of the water. Crews plan to launch a raft at different times to see if they can find Hiebel. Divers are unable to get into the water due to the river’s dangerous conditions.
“Unfortunately due to it being that the last time the person was seen was in the water and the length of time he was in the water and the length of time that he’s gone missing, we’ve switched over to a recovery mode versus a rescue mode,” FWFD Chief of Special Operations Tim Maloney said.
Kelly Hudson saw at least two of the kayakers in the water, but noticed their kayaks were farther down river.
“I kind of heard them screaming a little bit, but I thought they were screaming like, ‘oh I’m having fun,’” Hudson told NewsChannel 15.
Hudson flagged down two people nearby who had a phone and called 911.
Fire department personnel were able to pull two of the kayakers from the banks of the Maumee, but the Hiebel has not been found.
New Haven firefighters searched the river to Kreager Park.
Operations were halted around midnight and started up again early Wednesday morning.
Fort Wayne crews had five boats in the water searching for Hiebel. Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras in an attempt to pick up heat signatures. Crews also walked the banks of the river. Efforts Wednesday morning focused around Hosey Dam and on the river near the North Anthony Blvd. bridge. Maloney said the water is moving too fast to send in the dive team.
“It’s very dangerous for the responders. Even if you look at the amount of turbulence at the Hosey Dam right now, we can’t even get anywhere close to that. No resources can,” Maloney said.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officers also assisted with the search.
“People underestimate the power of moving water,” Conservation Officer Sgt. Patrick Heidenreich said. “It doesn’t take very much to where it can overtake you very easily.”
First responders encourage people to stay away from the rivers when they are this high. If you do go near them always wear a life jacket.
“It’s just a lifesaving piece of equipment that is invaluable in situations like this,” Heidenreich said.
“Don’t take this river for granted because, the speed and the height, the waters can be very dangerous,” Maloney said.