Searchers found a pair of black shorts Tuesday on the Flatrock River shoreline that might belong to the 27-year-old Michigan kayaker who has been missing in river floodwater since Sunday.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources officers and the Bartholomew County Water Rescue Team had about six boats out Tuesday searching for Enrique Quinonez of Kalamazoo.
The search was expected to resume this morning.
Quinonez and a friend, Alex Cruz, 27, Columbus, bought kayaks Friday and put them in the Flatrock River east of the Eighth Street Bridge about 11:20 a.m. Sunday, said Jet Quillen, DNR spokesman.
Quinonez was visiting Cruz for the weekend and had planned to return to Kalamazoo on Sunday afternoon.
The two men were in the kayaks for only a few minutes, passing under the Eighth Street bridge in the floodwater when Quinonez’s kayak capsized, Quillen said.
Cruz jumped out of his kayak in the swift current and pulled Quinonez by his coat hood to a tree and then grabbed on to another tree. Quinonez lost his grip on the tree, went underwater and did not resurface, Cruz told the DNR.
Neither man was wearing a life jacket, and Quinonez could not swim, Quillen said. Cruz swam to shore yelling for help, and a passer-by called 911.
Quinonez was wearing black running shorts and a dark gray lightweight jacket when he went missing, Quillen said.
The black shorts were caught in debris on the shoreline near where the Flatrock River ends and the East Fork White River begins, a short distance downstream from where Quinonez disappeared, Quillen said.
Quillen cautioned that investigators could not say with certainty that the clothing belonged to the missing man. The DNR is checking with family members who might be able to determine if the shorts belong to Quinonez.
Searchers continued using underwater sonar throughout the day Tuesday to try to find Quinonez.
Tuesday’s search began about 8 a.m. when searchers launched the boats in the East Fork White River out of Mill Race Park, near the Fifth Street park entrance. Later in the day, the boats returned to the area where Quinonez’s kayak overturned. The shorts were found Tuesday afternoon.
The trees the two men were hanging on to have been marked with orange spray paint, providing a reference for searchers in the boats.
Cruz visited the area where boats were launched Tuesday morning and talked to DNR officers briefly before walking along the river with a friend. Cruz has declined to talk to reporters.
Quinonez family members arrived from Miami and checked in with searchers Tuesday.
Underwater sonar showed a large amount of brush and trees below the surface throughout the search area. The underwater sonar is tethered to a boat by cable and is pulled through the river, giving images of the river below the surface. Searchers are looking for anything resembling arms, legs or a torso that would distinguish it from the tree limbs, Quillen said.
Some of the boats were using drag bars, which are dropped to the river bottom to try to hook a victim’s clothing.
Divers cannot be used because the river’s current remains too strong, Quillen said. Monday’s rain caused river levels to rise again slightly, making it too dangerous for divers to be in the water. Large tree limbs, tires and trash were floating down the Flatrock in the swift current on Tuesday.
As the river returns to its banks, and the current slows, it is more likely Quinonez will be found, Quillen said.