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Thursday, May 5, 2016

West Plains man drowns in Spring River

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Spring River claimed the life of a West Plains man who did not know how to swim Aug. 17.

Steven M. Shelton, 22, along with four friends, traveled to Fulton County to spend the day on the river, said Fulton County Deputy Carrol Traw.

The group started their float trip around the north end of Many Islands, the deputy said. Shelton's friends told authorities they had planned to float on tubes down to Saddler Falls, Traw said.

Shelton's friends told officers they arrived at their destination close to 7 p.m. but Shelton had lagged behind and become separated from the group. The four walked to where they had left their vehicle to wait for Shelton.

Twenty minutes later Shelton still had not arrived so they walked back to where they had last seen Shelton. The group found Shelton's tube but he was not in the vicinity, Traw continued.

Traw said Shelton's friends first thought Shelton had gotten out of the river and walked somewhere, but when he didn't return by 8:45 p.m. they contacted the Fulton County Sheriff's Office to help search for Shelton.

Deputies Traw and James Humphrey and Auxiliary Officer James Cantrell responded to the scene. Mammoth Spring Fire Department also assisted with the search.

Authorities began searching the water between where Shelton was last seen and where his tube was found, Traw said.

Officers and firemen used lights, generators and an underwater camera to search for the missing man.

Traw said the Mammoth Spring Fire Department saw a reflection in the water so Cantrell scanned the area with the camera and discovered Shelton's body in about 12 feet of water.

Traw said he thinks Shelton got a cramp in his body, fell off the tube and panicked. "There was no sign of foul play," Traw said.

Traw said Shelton's friends told authorities the victim had not been drinking.

The four told authorities they had floated the river before in canoes.

Shelton's body has been sent to the medical examiner's office in Little Rock.

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