Unfamiliar river was fishermen’s enemy

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Burton Benton and Jeff Paden have a tale of bad luck to add totheir repertoire of fishing stories.

Their boat got stuck on the Bogue Chitto River Sunday evening,and authorities from two counties conducted an all-night search forthe missing fishermen. The boat was located by helicopter around9:30 a.m. Monday, and the men were able to walk out of the woods,ending up on Johnston Station Road.

Benton, 34, of Bogue Chitto, and Paden, 37, of Summit, said theywere “just glad to be out.”

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“We just got caught by the dark and trolling motor broke,”Benton said after he and Paden were reunited with family members onFox Road about 10:45 a.m.

The men put in at the bridge on Fox Road around 2 p.m. Sunday,expecting to make a several-hour trip down the river to where oneof their trucks was waiting. Sunday was their first time on thatparticular area of the river and they were unfamiliar with theheavy number of downed trees and logs which made it difficult tonavigate.

“It made it almost impossible,” Paden said.

With the trolling motor and chain saw broken and darknessapproaching, Paden said, they paddled a short distance more beforetying up. By that time, they were close the Jolimar Recovery Centerproperty in extreme southern Lincoln County.

“We built a fire to keep warm,” Benton said.

Authorities and emergency officials began a search after the menwere reported missing around 11 p.m. Sunday. Sheriff Wiley Calcotesaid darkness hindered searchers’ efforts.

“There wasn’t anything we could do until daylight,” Calcotesaid.

Agencies involved in the search included the Lincoln and PikeCounty Sheriffs’ Department, Lincoln and Pike County Civil Defense,the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the MississippiHighway Patrol and trustys from the Lincoln County Jail. MajorDustin Bairfield said MHP’s helicopter was a valuable tool in thesearch.

“We never would have found them without the helicopter,” saidthe Lincoln County investigator, who rode in the helicopter duringthe search.

After the boat was located, searchers tried to determine thebest way to reach the men, who began to walk out of the woods.

“We’ve found them. They’re OK. We’re just trying to find a wayto get to them,” Bairfield said after the helicopter landed.

Benton and Paden eventually made it to Johnston Station Road,where they were picked up and taken back to Fox Road. The men andofficials were relieved the story had a good ending.

“I’m just glad we found them OK,” Calcote said.

Paden said he and Benton caught plenty of fish, but they wouldhave like to have enjoyed the activity a little longer.

“We hate we didn’t get to fish more,” Paden said.