Crews persevere against rising river, debris as search for missing hunters enters second month

Published 6:10 am Wednesday, January 6, 2021

More than a month after they were reported missing, search crews with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks are continuing their search of the Mississippi River for Zeb Hughes and Gunner Palmer.

“We are continuing to do what we’ve been doing,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “We’re searching the surface and using sonar. We have our boats and Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks boats in the river.”

Deputies continue to search an area from LeTourneau Landing, where the young men put in, south to the Claiborne County line. Wildlife agents have put in boats at LeTourneau, Port Gibson and Natchez.

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Pace said tentative plans are to bring a cadaver dog team from Mercy Search of St. Amant, La., to help in the search.

“They should be here by Friday and they will be on the water, weather permitting,” he said.

Pace said wind and weather conditions on the river have improved, but a rise in the river’s level has put debris, including trees and logs, in the water.

“It makes it more difficult to search the river with large debris floating in the water,” he said. Pace said the large debris also creates a safety hazard for the boats and may affect how long they can stay on the water. “We have been staying out until dark, but this debris makes staying out in the dark dangerous. We will have to look at coming in earlier before dark.”

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

At times, volunteers, Madison Parish, La., sheriff’s deputies, piloted aircraft and drones were involved in the search for the young men.