LOCUST FORK, Ala. – Several law enforcement agencies are looking for a missing 19-year-old University of Alabama student in Blount County, near Locust Fork.
Allysa Huffstutler, 19, was last seen Wednesday afternoon while rafting on the Warrior River with friends, according to ABC 33/40. She is from Blountsville.
Blount County EMA Director Max Armstrong says seven young adults got on the river about 4 p.m. Wednesday in inflatable rafts at Kings Bend, between Cleveland and Blountsville.
Armstrong said the party had been in the water about 30 minutes when they came to a dangerous section of the river where water goes under a large rock.
“They hit a rough section of the river and two people lost their raft,” said Armstrong. “One was able to climb out and call for help because he didn’t see the other person that lost her raft.”
The particularly dangerous stretch of river is near an area known as House Rock Rapid.
“What’s known in white water terms as an undercut rock,” explains Jay Claunch, Vice President of the Huntsville Canoe Club. “The water has bounced off this rock so long that it’s hollowed out under the water line which creates a terrible pinning situation if you happen to get into it.”
Claunch is intimately familiar with the area and says several members of the Huntsville Canoe Club and Madison County paddling community traveled to Blount County to assist in the recovery efforts. Claunch says there is a responsibility that comes along with the sport.
“Even for trained people accidents happen all the time. What we try to do is eliminate a lot of the risk getting trained.”
Claunch says the entire paddling community is saddened about Huffstutler and unfortunately the warning about respecting the river apparently comes too late.
“Our hearts really go out to the family.”
Teams have searched since Wednesday with boats and also by air. Volunteers are also walking along the banks. Teams found some items along the riverbank that may or may not have belonged to the party, Max Armstrong said.
WHNT News 19 learned dive crews stopped searching for the day just before 5:00 Thursday. The search effort has been complicated due to murky, muddy water conditions.
A group called “Prayers for Allysa Huffstutler” has formed on Facebook. Two prayer meetings are being held Thursday night for Allysa, both at high school football fields.
The prayer meeting at J.H. Pennington High School in Blountsville begins at 6:15 p.m. and the prayer meeting at Oneonta High School starts at 7:30 p.m.