Lost kayakers found safe along river

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

DIGGS — Two kayakers separated from the rest of their group along the Pee Dee River shortly before dark were found safe late Tuesday night on the Anson County side of the river — nearly 4.5 miles away from the intended destination.

The two were found walking along Pit Road, roughly 1 mile from Highway 145, by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission staff in Anson County.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Troy Sorrell said he’d planned to spend the day paddling along Hitchcock Creek and the Pee Dee River with his son, Army Specialist Hunter Sorrell, who recently returned home from a deployment to Iraq. Hunter, Sorrell said, wanted to bring two friends along. The two friends had experience on the creek but had never before paddled on the river. Further, the two had left each of their cellphones in a vehicle at the Roberdel put-in.

Stay close, Sorrell advised. The two apparently didn’t listen. The group put in at the Roberdel access point at about noon. After paddling approximately 10.74 miles together they reached the creek’s end.

“It was perfect,” Sorrell said. “It was so nice.”

Then the two friends held back, and paddled 100 yards or so behind Sorrell and his son. While the sun was still high in the sky, Sorrell said the the two friends then apparently stopped on an island in the river.

“That’s been over an hour and a half ago,” Sorrell said around 8:30 p.m. while standing on the pier at Diggs Tract.

The two kayakers weren’t seen again for about two hours. The sunset was at 7:28 p.m. Tuesday, and daylight was sufficient for another 20 minutes or so after that.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

By that point, though, Sorrell said the two had returned to the river on the Anson County side and then — perhaps in a misguided effort to find the intended takeout point at Diggs Tract — exited the water on the Anson County side.

“We were trying to enjoy the day,” Sorrell said. “They really didn’t know (the exit) was on this side. Now, they’re just lost.”

At 8:01 p.m., Sorrell, a firefighter with the Rockingham Fire Department, called 911. Volunteer units from Cordova Fire and Rescue, along with Ellerbe and Lilesville, responded to the Diggs Tract access point off Old Cheraw Highway. The access point is located approximately 4.2 miles south of Cordova.

While the two lost young men — reportedly from Ellerbe and Southern Pines — were without cellphones, Sorrell had taken appropriate safety precautions in part by telling his coworkers at the Rockingham Fire Department that he’d planned to be on the creek and river on Tuesday. When the emergency call for help came in, Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler led a contingent to the Roberdel access point and saw Sorrell’s truck. They put two and two together and quickly traveled to Diggs Tract.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Cordova’s watercraft put in first, with Chief Ray Webb in command. Lilesville (9:08 p.m.) with Isler on board, then Ellerbe (9:13 p.m.), also put boats in the water and focused their search on the Anson County side of the Pee Dee River.

All three boats had returned to Diggs Tract and exited the water by 10:04 p.m.

After the search, PeeDeePost.com readers talked about safety at Diggs Tract and the lack of lighting to note to novice river users about the landing there. Other responses were more personal.

“I want to thank each and every one of you that helped look tonight,” wrote Alyssa Norris on the PDP’s Facebook page. “One of the boys is my brother and it means a lot that everyone’s (sic) came out. Thank you, every have a good night and God bless you all.”

Another relative echoes Norris’ sentiments.

“Thank you to each and everyone who was involved in the search and rescue mission that went out to help find my son and his best friend,” posted Nickie Sonja. “It is a mother’s worse nightmare to receive the call I got tonight. Thankfully they were found safe and unharmed due to the efforts of the search and rescue mission from the community. My deepest thank you to each of you.”

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Public safety, Rockingham

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