Kayaker's body found after two day search

News 12 at 11/ Sunday, September 1, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A two day search ends in tragedy after search and rescue crews finds the body of a missing kayaker this morning. Ralph Taylor, 61, was kayaking with friends Saturday afternoon when he went missing. After an exhaustive search, he was found too late.

It was supposed to be a fun day on the river with friends.

"Apparently the victim was very inexperienced and he was having some rough times, and they were just trying to be friendly to him. So, they invited him on this kayak adventure," Cpl. Ben Payne said, Georgia DNR.

A couple miles into that adventure along the Savannah River, an island referred to as "Goat Island" split their course.

"He wanted to go a different direction from where the rapids were," Payne explained.

But, in an effort to stay safe, Taylor ran into some trouble on the water. His friends still don't know what went wrong.

"When the two experienced kayakers came down around the end of the island, all they saw coming down the river was a kayak," Payne said.

Search and rescue crews spent all afternoon Saturday and several hours Sunday morning looking for the missing kayaker.

"We could not locate yesterday the victim, and so we contacted Georgia State Patrol and had their flare helicopter come to see if they could locate with infrared imaging," Payne said.

Crews say the area of the river made a thorough search difficult.

"In this area of the river it's particularly dangerous because of all the rocks and the rapids," Augusta Fire Department's Sgt. Bryant Wolf said. "You can't really access it with boats or much watercraft besides a canoe."

Dennis Russell has been kayaking the river for years and knows how dangerous it can be.

"It doesn't take but just a second for your foot to get caught between a rock and even with a life jacket on, it'll pull you back and pull you under," he said.

"We're hoping that there is a survivor out there waiting for us to come get them. Unfortunately this time that was not the case," Payne said.

Officers say according to his friends, Taylor was the least experienced of the three. They also say he was not wearing a life jacket at the time, although he did have one on the boat with him.

His body will be sent to Atlanta for an autopsy tomorrow.

Georgia DNR says there have been two canal or river deaths in our area this year.

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