Search for missing Limestone County kayaker now recovery effort

The kayaker was identified as 39-year-old Michael Rynders of Athens.

Posted: Jul 4, 2019 2:59 PM
Updated: Jul 4, 2019 9:14 PM

UPDATE: Rescue officials say the search for 39-year-old Michael Rynders of Athens is now a recovery effort. 

WAAY 31 spoke with folks who spend time on the water where Rynders vanished.

From Brian Lamar

“We’ll be spending our 4th of July out here. Basically, all day long," Clint Pendley said.

Pendley and his son are out on the Elk River as often as they can be.

“Just love being out in the sun, being outdoors, spending family time," he said.

So, when Pendley heard a man went missing while kayaking on the river Wednesday night, he says it could’ve easily been one of them.

“We have friends who own kayaks and they kayak with us," he said.

And the Pendleys weren’t the only ones shocked by the news.

“I was talking to my son about it. He and his boys kayak a little bit," mark Vickers said. "I’ve tried them and I do just fine in the kayak, but every time I try to get out of one, I flip it.”

According to officials, Michael Rynders was kayaking with his girlfriend when his kayak capsized.

His girlfriend heard him yell, turned around, and he was gone.

“There are a lot of stumps and when the water gets shallow, you can hit a stump and roll over and hit your head pretty quick," Pendley said.

It’s unclear what exactly happened to Rynders, but dive teams were using sonar equipment and cadaver dogs to find him on Thursday.

After hearing about this tragic accident, Pendley said he’ll be extra careful when out on the water.

“You always have to make sure you have a life jacket for everyone accounted for," he said. "Stay aware and observant of the dangers that are around you.”

In the meantime, Pendley said he is thinking about Rynders' family.

“We’ll be praying for the famil," he said. "Everything they’re going through. I can’t imagine.”

“Beautiful day, great holiday. Sad time to lose a family member," Vickers added.

We're told Rynders wasn't wearing a life jacket while kayaking. His girlfriend says he is former military and an excellent swimmer.

Sgt. Chad Pate with Marine Patrol-Northern District says Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Marine Patrol, the Limestone County Sheriff's Office, Rogersville Rescue Squad, Killen Rescue Squad, Owen Rescue Squad and Athens/Limestone County Rescue Squad are involved in the search.

Crews will do a debrief at 4:45 p.m. Thursday and then stop search efforts for the day at 5 p.m. They don’t want anyone out in the dark searching.


(7/3/19 at 11 p.m.)

The Limestone County Sheriff's Office says a man in his thirties is missing in the Elk River, near Sportsman Park in Limestone County.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says the search and investigation are ongoing. The agency says the missing boater was kayaking along with another kayaker, when his kayak capsized.

The search is ending for Wednesday night around 11 p.m., and crews will begin searching again at 7 a.m. Thursday morning.

The man and his girlfriend were kayaking when she heard him yell. She said she turned around and he was gone. She told the sheriff's office the kayak was there, but he wasn’t. 

(7/3/19 at 9:15 p.m.)

Emergency crews are responding to Elk River Mills Road after a call came in at 7:56 p.m. on Wednesday about a boat that is possibly in distress or that was involved in a collision, Steven Young with the Limestone County Sheriff's Office said. 

The Owens Volunteer Fire Department, the Limestone County Rescue Squad and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's Marine Patrol Troopers were dispatched to the scene. WAAY 31 has a reporter on the way to the scene and is working to gather more information.

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