Recovery of Payette River floater's body ends tragic ordeal
After more than a week of searching, the body of 21-year-old Everette Jackson was recovered about 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon downstream from where he reportedly disappeared in the Payette River over a week before.
Volunteer search teams had been battling high river conditions since June 11 in an attempt to rescue and then recover Jackson from the Payette River downstream from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Emmett.
The Gem County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the recovery in a release Sunday afternoon:
“Jackson, a 21-year-old visitor from Raceland, Louisiana, went missing on Saturday, June 11, 2022, after a witness reported seeing Jackson fall from a tube, go underwater and not resurface near the Gem County Island Sports Complex,” according to the release.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this very difficult time,” Gem County Sheriff Donnie Wunder said. “We are grateful to all of the emergency responders and volunteers who made this recovery possible.”
On Sunday afternoon, a volunteer located the body approximately two miles downstream in the Payette River from the location where Jackson was last seen. Everette Jackson was identified as the deceased by family.
Sheriff Wunder reported, “the week-long search included first responders and volunteers and was complicated by high water flow and dangerous river conditions.”
Jackson had been tubing with friends on the river, when he was unable to exit the fast-moving current when his four companions did. At the time the Payette was flowing at about 10,200 cu feet per second with a river depth of 8.12 feet.
Jackson’s disappearance under water was reported about 4:40 p.m. on June 11 and Gem County Sheriff’s Office responded with a jet boat, jet skis, and drones taking up a search shortly thereafter. Continuing search efforts on Sunday, June 12, were additionally hampered by heavy rainfall and a rising stream flow.
The river peaked on Monday at about 13,300 cfs but debris and unseasonal high flows continued to hamper the search all week. A year ago the flow on the Payette during the same time period was 1,570 cfs which is considered the optimum safe level for tubers.
The murkiness of the rain fed water along with its velocity became a concern for the safety of the volunteers that joined the search. Gem County Sheriff’s Office and local volunteers were joined Monday by Jackson family members and volunteers they contacted with the United Cajun Navy. Helicopters were added to the search efforts as weather permitted.
Search efforts from the river banks were limited due to heavy vegetation growth and high water levels. The north side of the river is heavily infested with poison oak requiring some searchers to seek medical attention.
For Sheriff Wunder it was a matter of using all volunteers as much as possible yet making sure they remained safe.
“We already had a tragic situation, I was not about to allow that to be compounded with volunteers getting into a situation they were not prepared for,” Wunder told the Messenger Index at mid week. “We had to divert a jet boat that was searching to rescue a volunteer on a jet ski that went down.”
By Saturday the water flows had receded to about 6,500 cfs and the search effort expanded to more shoreline monitoring.
More than 100 volunteers and search teams from Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, Idaho Fish Game and Washington County joined local volunteers and members of a Gulf Search and Rescue team that came from Louisiana to join the search.
Multiple local entities helped supply materials, water and food for searchers during the week and a fund to assist Jackson family members with expenses was set up at Wells Fargo bank. A support effort in both prayers and resources was also initiated in Lafourche Parish where Jackson graduated from Central Lefourche High School in 2019. He was a student at Louisiana State University-Eunice where he also played basketball.
Wunder cautioned everyone thinking of venturing out on the river this summer that the conditions are not safe yet. “It needs to be down a lot lower and we need some time for the river to clean itself out from some of the storm debris.”