LEVANNA — Agencies from both sides of the Ohio River searched up and down the waterway and riverbanks this week for two canoeists who have been missing since Saturday.
The search for Marty Stanaford, 19, and Cameron Buerger, 20, from Troy, began Sunday, after the two men set off in a green canoe shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, and never returned.
Stanaford, Buerger and their friend, Paige Terry, were visiting a home owned by Buerger’s family just outside of Higginsport. Terry did not venture out into the canoe with the two men on Saturday evening.
Authorities say there were sightings of the men traveling upstream, paddling toward the Kentucky side of the river. That correlates with Terry’s story, which claimed that her two friends made it across the river to Kentucky and had contacted her later that evening.
Terry received a text from the two men at approximately 6 p.m. Saturday, but when it started getting dark and they had not yet returned, Terry said she began to worry and decided to call police.
Several teams searched Sunday to no avail, prompting law enforcement to expand their search Monday and Tuesday to a 100-mile stretch of the river, from Ripley to the Markland Locks and Dam near Vevay, Ind., only stopping at dusk to resume the search at daybreak.
“All we’re doing at this point is continuing the search,” said Alandra Buerger, Cameron Buerger’s mother, on Tuesday morning. “The search crews are probably starting from Ripley all the way down to the dam at this point. We’re covering the banks, too. I did all this yesterday in a pontoon boat and we didn’t see anything, but with the river level dropping … we’re just going to keep looking, even in the middle of the river today in addition to the banks.”
Several of the missing men’s friends were also at the Levanna house — with more arriving every day — to aid in the search.
“People keep showing up at the house, we don’t really have a command center point right now,” Alandra Buerger said. “My husband, Rob, is on a boat, and there’s another boat so we’re going to put these girls down there and just be spotters on the boat right now. We’ve got a couple kayaks that are about to start — we have two out, two that are almost in, and we’re going to have one extra. We’re going to change out at some point in Ripley so I’m going to get in a kayak and one other person is going to get in a kayak and we’re just going to keep working our way down.”
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department, and departments from Clermont County, Pendleton County, Dearborn County, Buffalo Trace and the Boone County Water Rescue aided the search, as did several community members and concerned family and friends.
A helicopter of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and a Brown County Emergency Response Team also contributed to the search, as did the U.S. Coast Guard, who announced to those on the river to keep their eyes out for the missing men.
A cooler believed to be used by Stanaford and Buerger in the canoe was found near the Meldahl Locks and Dam.
The canoe has not yet been found. It is a green, 15-foot Old Towne brand canoe with the identification OH-1599-ZK.
“At this point we’re just keeping positive thoughts and just hoping they’re OK,” Alandra Buerger said.