Search suspended for missing kayaker in Potomac River; to resume - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Search suspended for missing kayaker in Potomac River; to resume in morning

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Search and rescue crews had to suspend a search for a kayaker who went missing in the Potomac River near Great Falls Friday evening. They plan to resume searching Saturday.

After four hours of searching by air, land and water, search and rescue crews recovered a red kayak and a paddle, but the kayaker who was seen struggling in the water wasn’t found.

Pete Piringer with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue talked about the search: “It involves a Park Police Eagle helicopter, a Park Police swift water rescue team, Montgomery County swift water rescue team, and land searchers -- a pretty extensive search.”

Rescuers searched about eight miles of the Potomac starting at Great Falls National Park and headed downstream.

The current is so strong that it likely dragged the kayaker, according to officials. The other big danger is that the water can be up to 70 feet deep in some areas, something that can be a pro and a con for kayakers.

“The Great Falls area is very deep water, very strong currents,” said Piringer. “The elevations drop and it creates a very desirable situation for kayakers.”

Gregory Miller is a paddle board instructor and the owner of Paddlestroke SUP. He is out on the Potomac River all year around and is very familiar with the area where the kayaker was last seen. Miller said the river can be dangerous.

“There are a lot of whirlpools, there are a lot of what we call suck-downs, parts of the river that can actually suck you down,” said Miller.

He adds that people shouldn't go out alone, and if they do, they should leave behind a so-called "float plan” letting someone know where they plan to be and when they'll be back.

“The Potomac river out here can be dangerous at any level,” he said.

Rescuers don’t know who the kayaker is. All witnesses told them is he was a young man wearing a tan life jacket. He was seen struggling on his kayak, but no one actually saw him go under.

The search is scheduled to resume Saturday.

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