DNR closing access to portion of Middle Fork River

Until further notice, the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources Police is closing access to the Middle Fork River between Audra State Park in Barbour County and the Tygart Valley River.

The action is necessary as DNR Police are bringing in equipment including ropes and cables to assist with the recovery of the kayaker presumed drowned on Feb. 9.

DNR Police hope to resume recovery operations Sunday morning, but continue to monitor water levels and conditions at the site to ensure personnel can re-enter the water safely.

Here is additional information regarding this situation:

• Jamie Lynn Gray, 41, of Hacker Valley, W.Va, was kayaking with a group of 9 fellow paddlers on the Middle Fork River in Barbour County on Sunday, Feb 9. At around 1:53 p.m. while about one half-mile below Audra State Park, Gray’s kayak capsized and she was swept downstream. A short distance from where she capsized, Gray was swept under a large rock in the river and never resurfaced. Members of her group attempted to reach where she was last seen, but were unsuccessful.

• Barbour County 911 was notified, and agencies responding to the scene included DNR Police, W.Va. State Police, Barbour County Sheriff’s Office, the Philippi, Belington and Junior Volunteer Fire departments as well as additional emergency units from outside Barbour County.

• The rugged terrain of the area required responding personnel to cut a path into the area. Search efforts continued for several hours until nightfall.

• DNR Police, State Police, and other personnel trained in water rescue and recovery returned to the area on Monday, Feb. 10 to continue the search. Over the course of that day, they encountered worsening weather including heavy rains that caused the river levels to rise.

• Conditions in that stretch of the Middle Fork became too dangerous conditions for rescue personnel, while shoreline searches were also conducted.

• The river level rose even further on Tuesday, Feb. 11.] The river gauge at Audra State Park at the time of the incident Feb. 9 measured levels at around 4 feet. It measured levels at nearly 9 feet by Tuesday afternoon, preventing any personnel from entering the water at the scene since.

• The W.Va. Division of Forestry and the Marion and Monongalia County offices of Emergency Services have offered assistance including multiple drone aircraft and pilots to search the area and downstream from where the incident occurred.