Search and recovery dogs indicated three areas on the Flat Rock River and East Fork White River on Saturday morning where a missing kayaker might be found.
Four dogs searched from boats with the Bartholomew County Water Rescue Team and two others searched the riverbanks with the sheriff’s deputies, looking for 27-year-old Enrique Quinonez of Kalamazoo, Mich., believed to have drowned April 6 shortly after heading onto the water.
Searchers marked each location where the Indiana K9 Search and Recovery dogs picked up a scent of human remains, but the search ended at midafternoon with no traces of Quinonez.
Sometimes the scent travels on the current of the water, which means the dogs sometimes smell the scent downstream from where the victim may be, said Leah Snyder, who directs the volunteer search group based in Indianapolis.
The dogs worked the rivers from downstream to upstream, starting on the East Fork White River and working backwards to where Quinonez disappeared into the Flat Rock River near the Eighth Street Bridge.
Some dogs indicated a scent by barking and whining — some by stopping or crouching. Snyder asked the rescue team members to steer the boats in whatever direction the dog indicated and let the handler watch the dog’s responses.
“It’s called driving the dog,” Snyder said. “We need them to go where the dogs want to go.”
The K9 handlers, all volunteers, declined to talk to the media, focusing on the search, which continued throughout Mill Race Park and along the riverbanks.
The county’s water rescue team and Indiana Department of Natural Resources will return to the locations indicated by the dogs as the water recedes and the river current slows to see if Quinonez’s body is trapped in debris underwater, said Maj. Todd Noblitt, spokesman for the sheriff’s department.
The water on the Flat Rock remains at about 9 to 10 feet, still high, with a current of about 3-and-a-half miles per hour. The conditions are too dangerous for divers, said Lt. Chris Roberts, a sheriff’s department detective who is on the dive team. Roberts was piloting one of the boats with a search dog Saturday.
One of the locations where the dogs made an indication is a formerly flooded area along the East Fork White River near where it meets the Flat Rock. A more thorough ground search may be necessary as Quinonez’s body could be under debris there, Noblitt said.
The sheriff’s department had a helicopter search the riverbanks on Friday searching for Quinonez. More than 1,000 man hours have been put in the search since April 6, Noblitt said. The search will continue until they find the kayaker, he said.
“We’re going to do everything we can, exhaust all our resources that are available, so this family can start the healing process,” he said.
Quinonez and a friend, Alex Cruz, 27, of Columbus, bought kayaks April 4 and put them in the floodwaters of the river upstream from the bridge area about 11:20 a.m. April 6, said Jet Quillen, DNR spokesman.
The two were in the kayaks for only a few minutes, passing under the Eighth Street bridge, when Quinonez’s kayak capsized in about 12 feet of water, Quillen said.
Cruz jumped out of his kayak and grabbed Quinonez’s coat hood to drag him to a tree and then grabbed on to another tree. Cruz told investigators that Quinonez lost his grip on the tree, went underwater and did not resurface.
Cruz then swam to shore yelling for help, and a passer-by in Mill Race Park called 911. Neither man was wearing a life vest, and Quinonez could not swim, Quillen said.
Searchers have been using DNR sonar trying to locate Quinonez. They found a pair of black shorts caught in debris along the riverbank on Tuesday but have not confirmed that the shorts belong to Quinonez. The missing kayaker was wearing black running shorts and a dark gray lightweight jacket when he disappeared.
An area near where the shorts were located was indicated by the dogs as a possible location where Quinonez could be. The area was marked Saturday for further search.
Cruz and family members have visited the site and looked along the Flat Rock shoreline throughout the week, hoping that Quinonez would be found. They have declined to speak to reporters about the victim.