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While searchers continue to look for missing kayakers, experts warn of a deadly dam in the White River



Indianapolis, Indiana – Teams tasked with searching and saving lives are still scouring the White River for evidence of the two missing kayakers. The two submerged shortly downstream of the 16th St. bridge on Tuesday night, sparking the start of the search.

There were search and rescue teams visible going through the shallower areas close to the White River’s east bank. They searched the riverbed with long poles but were unable to locate what they were looking for.

“We have several boats on the water, there’s going to be several crews searching the shores as well as aerial searches by drone and helicopter,” said Trevor Sagar, an Indiana Conservation Officer.

Around 8:30 on Tuesday night, two kayakers near the Emrichsville Dam reportedly went under, according to a witness, according to Sager. White water that is frothing and moving marks the location. It’s directly downstream of the 16th Street bridge.

Only the two kayaks have been located thus far. Solomon Shirley, 22, and Marcus Robinson, 30, are thought to be the two kayakers.

”They kayaked from Riverside Park to here,” said Antonio Alford, a relative of the two missing men.

Alford reported that the two loved being in nature and going on hikes and kayaking.

”The surprising thing about this is just the time with it being so late at night and with it being dark and with it having rained so much in the water so this is just something where I wish they wouldn’t have went right now,” Alford said.

This past weekend, according to Friends of the White River, the river’s water levels were among the highest in the previous 20 years.

”The amount of water in the system has been declining the last several days but its still higher than we would recommend being on the river,” said Scott Salmon, the Executive Director of Friends of the White River.

Salmon stated that because of the Emrichsville Dam, the section of the river where the kayakers went under was particularly hazardous. According to Salmon, there is a collapsed “low head dam” causing the river to riptide and circulate water like a washing machine.

”Water comes over the low head dam, or we call them in-channel damns, and then recirculates back in on itself,” Salmon said. “So, we actually have the current going upstream just downstream of the dam, so two water conditions are converging to pin people on the low head dam and push them back under.”

Since the previous time it happened, according to Salmon, they have been fearing someone else going under the dam. In 2021, a 17-year-old was killed by being pulled beneath.
Alford expressed concern that his family members may not have even noticed the dam coming, particularly since it is growing dark outside.

”It’s possible, especially because the dam is in a state of disrepair,” Salmon said. “It actually failed in 2018 and it’s not as visible as most low-head dams are upstream.”

Salmon reported that a notice alerting visitors to leave and refrain from attempting to paddle through the dam was just installed upriver from it. The east side of the 16th St. bridge and its side facing the river are visible. However, Salmon points out that simply dismantling the dam would be the safest course of action.

”You can’t have a world-class destination of paddling when you have a lethal drowning hazard,” Salmon said.

He said that the city owns the dam. For years, the Friends of the White River have worked to get the dam demolished, but they have not been successful.
Until dusk, first responders will keep scouring the White River. The search will recommence Thursday at nine in the morning, if needed.

”Hopefully someone can see them,” Alford said. “At this point, we’ll take anything.”


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