Search teams in Virginia have found the body of one of two women missing for days after a dozen people on rafts and paddleboards went over a dam on the James River, police said.
The body of Lauren Winstead, 23, of Henrico County, was found just west of the Powhite Parkway Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, Henrico County Police tweeted. The search for Sarah Erway, 28, of Chesterfield County, is continuing but will transition from a search and rescue mission to a recovery operation, police said.
The pair went missing Monday afternoon after going over the Bosher Dam with 10 companions during a float trip with paddleboards and inflatable rafts. The others also plunged over the dam, but were rescued or made it to safety on their own, news outlets reported. Images of the search showed the river seemingly placid above the dam, but roiling below, with some of the group’s paddleboards and inflatable rafts caught in the currents below the rush of water.
The National Weather Service recorded water levels on the river at over 9 feet by 3 p.m. Monday. Water levels above 6 feet are deemed too high for average paddlers to navigate due to the powerful currents.
Richmond Fire battalion chief Robert Maass said the search has been very challenging for crews.
“The river level has gone down, which certainly helps in the search, but it’s still at an elevated level, which makes searching difficult,” he explained. “The water’s churned up. The water’s nasty. There’s a lot of mud and dirt in the water as well as debris, which makes the search difficult.”
Police warned that the river is at dangerous levels in some areas and anyone entering the river should be extremely cautious.