Search to recover canoeist's body may end soon

March 3, 2011 5:16:49 PM PST
It's been more than a month since 32-year-old canoeist Chad Napier went missing on Lake Mayo in Person County.

Now, the effort to find his body may not last much longer and his family is making an emotional plea for more help.

"It's hard, it's hard for me to come down here, but I have to come down here every day," Napier's mother, Linda Napier, said.

For each of the past 32 days, Linda has been on a journey, and it has been a constant struggle to understand what happened to her beloved son.

"It gets harder and harder," she said. "I get more emotional as the days go by."

On January 31, Chad was canoeing with a friend. Officials say the canoe capsized and the two struggled to swim to shore. Chad's friend made it through the frigid water, but investigators believe Chad did not make it.

Linda says she knew from the start that her son was still in the lake.

"I know he's in that lake," she said. "When they called me and told me to come down here, it's just a mother's instinct. I know he's in that lake."

Since then, the hardships for Linda have been emotional and financial. With the little money she has, she buys gas in order to make the daily journey to a place her son enjoyed so much.

"I think Chad loved the lake because it was quiet," Linda said. "It's just like a piece of mind."

And a piece of mind is something both friends and family want. Although multiple agencies have assisted in the search, officials say all sonar hits have turned up negative. At some point, they say they'll have to call of the search.

That's a result loved ones say they won't accept.

"It's been over four weeks," friend Angela Higgins said. "There's no reason they haven't banded together, called the governor's office and got them out of that lake.

While family members continue to ask for more help and resources, Person County Sheriff Dewey Jones told ABC11 Eyewitness News Thursday that his department has been at the lake every day doing the best it can with what it has.

In fact, he says he's taken a personal approach. ABC11 couldn't talk with him on camera Thursday- because he was on a boat helping the search effort.

Friends and family will hold a candlelight vigil 8 p.m. Thursday at the Lake Mayo boat ramp. They also will hold a benefit for Chad's mom on Saturday, March 19. A place and time has not been announced.

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