Tuesday, May 03, 2011

TOP STORY >> Driver presumed drowned on road

Leader staff writer

A family waits as the search resumes today for a missing Butlerville man who disappeared Tuesday morning after driving through a flooded stretch of Hwy. 236 West in Lonoke County.

Carl Hess, 56, was driving a white Chevy Silverado truck as he drove past the road-closed sign and barricade at the corner of Hwy. 236 and Hwy. 31 near the Woodlawn community. The truck stalled in the swift water overflowing the highway west of Glover Road. Hess called his wife, Patricia, and then got out of the vehicle.

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, the Cabot Fire Department dive team, the Lonoke Fire Department, the CS and Z, Tri-Community, Butlerville and South Bend volunteer fire departments, and the Game and Fish Commission were at the scene trying to locate Hess in the water.

The agencies used boats and a search/cadaver dog throughout the day trying to find Hess. A State Police helicopter circled in the air trying to locate Hess.

The last time anyone heard from Hess was at 7:19 a.m., when he called his wife on his cell phone and said he was stuck.

The water level was three to four feet on the highway where the truck was stopped. The cold, rapidly flowing water was deeper along the ditches off the highway.

When Hess called his wife, he said was going to walk toward home and asked for some clean clothes. His son and son-in-law went looking for him and did not find him. His wife called authorities and the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department around 7:30 a.m.

“He better be OK. I hope to God he is OK. I buried one husband in 1997 from asbestos,” Patricia Hess said.

“He always calls and lets me know where he is. All we are doing is waiting and hoping he shows up,” his wife said.

Hess has five children and three stepchildren. He works as a groundskeeper for the VA Hospital in North Little Rock.

“Don’t drive into the water for your safety and your family’s safety. Honor those barricades. There is a reason for them. Take the longer route,” Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson said.

Marineill Gillette, who lives on Hwy. 236, said she heard traffic on the road and thought the water went down. She considered parking her truck on the highway to block traffic from traveling into the flooded road.

But she said that might be illegal and did not want anyone to hit her truck. She said now she wished she had.

“People think the bigger and heavier their vehicle is their vehicle can go through water like this,” Gillette said.

“I don’t drive around barricades. I’m very cautious. I try not to drive in deep water. There is always another way around,” Gillette said.