Search for duck hunters restarts after brief suspension by rain, fog Sunday afternoon

Published 10:37 am Monday, December 14, 2020

The days-long search for two missing hunters on the Mississippi River was suspended early Sunday afternoon as heavy rain and low visibility pushed searchers off the river.

But, crews with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks were back on the water Monday morning.

“We were on the river early yesterday until the rain forced us out,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “This visibility was so diminished by the rain that we had to pull out for safety.

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“The rain doesn’t bother us, the problem with the rain and the fog is visibility,” he said. “It just gets to the point where it becomes dangerous to be out there with the commercial traffic. But, we are back out this morning.”

Pace said Sunday’s search also included a civilian aircraft searching areas along the Mississippi River in hopes of finding any evidence of the hunters — Zeb Hughes, 21, from Wesson, and 16-year-old Gunner Palmer, of Brookhaven — who have been missing since Dec. 3.

The search began late Dec. 3 after the two did not return from a planned hunting trip and were reported missing by their families. Hughes and Palmer had put out on the river from LeTourneau Landing that morning. Their truck and trailer were still at the landing when rescuers first arrived.

In the now 12 days of searching, dozens of search teams have been on the river and on land, while a variety of aircraft — including drones and aircraft using thermal imaging — have flown over miles of river.

Late last week, the search expanded further south, with boats from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks that were launched from LeTourneau, Port Gibson and Natchez.

“The families are devastated of course,” Pace said. “They are good families and are supporting one another. We are briefing them throughout the day as we search and doing everything we can to provide them answers.”

Part of that communication also has been dispelling any rumors and incorrect information about the search that has been prevalent on social media.

“It is always a challenge anytime there is a major event. Social media only magnifies that,” Pace said on the spread of incorrect information. “That is why we have been in touch with the family on a regular basis giving them the facts as we know them.”