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Drowning on Sipsey

Sunday, April 19, 2015 | 9:04 PM

An outing on the Sipsey River Saturday afternoon ended tragically in one death and one injury. Around 2:30 p.m. one of the canoes in a group of vessels capsized while attempting to pass a downed tree approximately 1.5 miles south of the Sipsey Picnic Area, entrapping one of the passengers under the water, thus causing the death by drowning of Lori Turner, 54, of Huntsville. Turner was with a group of 9 people from the Huntsville and Decatur area in 4 canoes and 1 kayak who had planned on a pleasant trip down the Sipsey. 

Because of recent rains, the river was up enough to make the trip from the Sipsey Picnic Area to Highway 33. The guide for the trip had made the run many times before, and as recent as two weeks before. However, a large tree had fallen across the river since the guide's last trip and was partially submerged. Turner was in the middle seat of a three seat canoe which in the middle of the group. As an attempt was made to negotiate the fallen tree, the canoe became stuck, flipped, trapping her under the tree in the rapid moving water.

Barry Bearden, who was canoeing on the Sipsey at the time, transported an EMT, Jacob Taylor in Bearden's canoe from the picnic area to the location of the accident scene. Taylor reported the location by radio relaying the info through a Pebble fireman who was making his way to the scene by ground. As more rescuers arrived, the water receded enough to located and facilitate the recovery of Turner's body.

Efforts to recover all members of the party was hampered by the inaccessibility of the site and darkness. Two people who were in the canoe with Turner were taken to Lakeland Community Hospital and remained overnight. According to members of the group, Turner reportedly had a husband and five children. 

Assisting in the rescue operation were members of the Haleyville and Addison Rescue Squads and the Double Springs, Pebble and Ashridge Fire Departments. Other agencies on the scene included Sheriff Hobby Walker, a state conservation officer, Forest Ranger, and Alabama State Trooper. The Alabama State Trooper helicopter with infrared later assisted with communication. 

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