Two Virginia Women Remain Missing After Falling Over Dam

by TK Sanders

Officials continue to search for two missing women who tumbled over Bosher’s Dam on the James River in Richmond, Virginia on Monday. The missing women were floating with a group of 12 others when the entire group went over the Virginia dam.

“The search resumed this morning at 7 a.m.,” a spokesperson for Richmond Fire & Emergency Services told PEOPLE. “Currently, there are no updates on the missing women.”

Henrico police identified the women as Lauren E. Winstead, 23, of Henrico County, and Sarah E. Erway, 28, of Chesterfield County. The police announced the information in a news release earlier this week.

“Multi-agency search underway while officials are getting updates from those in the field actively searching for two missing females by air, water, and on foot,” police tweeted just before 9 a.m. Tuesday. “Please remember that portions of the James river is at dangerous levels and anyone entering should use extreme caution!”

Richmond Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeffrey Segal said that his team received a report of stranded floaters on the river in the late afternoon hours of Memorial Day. A press release said the group was “in distress near Bosher’s Dam after 12 people set out upriver to float along the river earlier in the afternoon.”

The Virginia dam was 12-feet high, local news media said

Civilian kayakers helped with rescue efforts, authorities said. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, authorities rescued nine of the original 12 floaters who went over. One of them “self-rescued,” and two remain missing.

A Richmond Police Department air unit was seen at one of the established scenes near Cherokee Road. Emergency crews searched for the missing females into the nighttime hours.

“After a very thorough search today, this evening, we ceased operations this evening because of nightfall. We will start our search efforts tomorrow morning, first thing in the morning,” Segal said Monday night. Segal also called the mission a “recovery” mission at the time instead of a body search, implying that he was hopeful in a happy ending.

Local news station drones captured footage of the floats that the group had used when they went over. The floats bunched up next to the dam, meaning the women who went unaccounted for likely lost them in the tumble.

Drones also photographed emergency rescue crews near Belle Isle — a parcel of land surrounded by water several miles downriver from the dam. Apparently, a second water rescue took place there, as well.

Segal said authorities didn’t know which types of flotation devices the group used before tumbling. Authorities also didn’t have details regarding which floaters or kayakers knew each other, Segal added.

The dam only boasts a 12-foot drop — not hundreds of feet like some dams in the country — but it was enough to cause significant damage, it seems.