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Missouri Highway Patrol searching for missing canoeist in Laclede County

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 3:27 PM CDT
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ELDRIDGE, Mo. (KY3) - The Missouri Highway Patrol is searching for a missing canoeist in Laclede County.

Tim Stapleton’s canoe hit debris and tipped over near Eldridge on the Niangua River.

“So our divers are are just systematically doing linear searches right now along the bank along those larger rocks, boulders, to see if we may be able to see if the individual is on the bottom of the river,” said Sargent David Brown with the highway patrol.

A woman with Stapleton grabbed a tree and survived. Stapleton floated downstream.

“They were able to observe the man floating down stream for a short way, down the stream and they just lost sight of him,” said Brown

While divers have been continuously searching the river, family friends say they felt compelled to come out as well, to see if they could offer any help.

“We just dropped everything and put it on automatic pilot and you know we pray, got the direction from god to come down here and to help,” said Dave Clements.

There were similar efforts the night before.

“Friends who he was with last night looked all night. They risked themselves with high waters, very dangerous situations. They were all looking last night too. So everyone, we’re all just trying to pull together,” Dave Clements.

They have known Stapleton for many years. They consider him family. They describe him as a strong, loving person.

“He beat addiction you know 32 years, and he beat cancer twice. He’s just a good human, a really good person,” said Mary Clements.

They’re still holding onto hope.

“We know there’s a 99 percent chance that he’s at the bottom of the river, but the 1 percent chance of the miracle is that he is alive,” said Dave Clements.

After a handful of drownings over the last few days Sargent Brown says he can’t stress the importance of a life jacket enough.

“Even if very good swimmers, in these conditions, if you’re in the water you become hypothermic very quickly. If you gasp when you enter the water from a vessel like a kayak or canoe, especially if you suck down water into your lungs, it’s very hard to recover from that,” he said.

Family and friends are asking anyone in the area to keep and eye out for Stapleton -- in case he did make it out of the water.

Search efforts will resume Tuesday.

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