Hope dims as search for missing hunters enters third week of scouring Mississippi River

Published 9:41 pm Saturday, December 19, 2020

Rain forced authorities looking for two missing hunters to suspend their efforts Saturday afternoon as the search is now in its third week.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said two sheriff’s office boats and a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks boat were joined on the Mississippi River by a civilian boat with two cadaver dogs. He said nothing was found. The search is expected to resume Sunday.

The search for Zeb Hughes, 21, from Wesson, and 16-year-old Gunner Palmer of Brookhaven, began late Dec. 3 after the two did not return from a planned hunting trip and were reported missing by their families.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Although we always hold out hope that we will rescue these young men, it is unlikely at this point,” Pace said Friday. “Our mission at this point is to recover these young men and get them home to their families.”

Pace said the days of searching have been “exhaustive.”

“We have conducted exhaustive searches on both sides of the river for miles with no indication the pair made it out of the water,” Pace said. “We will always hold out hope that we will recover them alive, but it is unlikely this will be a rescue.”

Hughes and Palmer put out on the river from LeTourneau Landing that morning. Their truck and trailer were still at the landing when rescuers first arrived.

Since then, officials with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Agents, Madison Parish, La., Sheriff’s Office and volunteers have searched the river scanning the surface and using sonar to search the river bottom in an effort to find the young men.

The search has at times has been augmented by aircraft and drones and land searches. Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a notice to mariners asking commercial vessels on the river watch for the pair.