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Massive search continues for two young men on the Mississippi

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

Nearly 24 hours after two young men disappeared on the Mississippi River near the Warren-Claiborne county line, rescuers, many of them community members and volunteers, are still on the job searching for them.

The young men, Gunner Palmer, 16, from Copiah County, and Zeb Hughes, 21, of Wesson, Mississippi, went out on a boat Thursday with their dog to find a good spot for duck hunting near Davis Island. Hughes’ mom spoke with her son at 2:48 p.m. Thursday, which may be the last time anyone has spoken to them since.

When they hadn’t returned by Thursday after dark, and family and friends couldn’t reach them by phone, they raised the alarm.

The search began in Warren County around 9 p.m. Thursday with county deputies and personnel from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The rainy weather and fog hampered the search, which was called off after midnight.

“We had boats out last night until after 2 o’clock this (Friday) morning when the fog and the rain just made it too dangerous to be on the water,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

First light Friday morning, the search resumed, with more personnel and volunteers joining as the day brightened. They included volunteers with the Cajun Navy, MDWFP personnel, Warren County and Madison Parish deputies, and 28 men and women from the Central Mississippi Overland Search and Rescue Team, which consists of police and firefighters from around the state. A private aircraft and another plane from Madison Parish have also been searching, along with numerous people from the community on land and in the river.

Around 9 a.m., the hunters’ boat was found capsized in the water near Middle Ground Island, roughly adjacent to the Claiborne-Warren county line.

A few items from what would have been on the boat were located later; including one of the three life vests that were onboard.

People tend to underestimate the power of the Mississippi River and there’s nothing to say the two young men had experience traversing it.

“The Mississippi River is dangerous on its best day, and deadly on its worst, and yesterday was just not the best day to be on the water,” Pace said.

The overland search has been called off for Friday. Rescuers will rendezvous Saturday at 7 a.m. to continue, if necessary.

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