Missing Bracken County man now believed dead in third day of search, rescuers say

82-year-old Delmar Nickoson was swept away Sunday

AUGUSTA, Ky. -- "We're not giving up."

But Delmar Nickoson, the 82-year-old man who disappeared Sunday in the wake of enormous floods that swept through Bracken County, is almost certainly dead, according to Bracken County search and rescue coordinator Alex Hyrcza.

In a news conference Monday night, Hyrcza said the efforts of the many volunteers who had arrived to assist in the search for Nickoson would now focus on recovering his body.

Fred Reynolds, the Bracken County emergency management director, said he personally knows Nickoson. He became emotional when he spoke about the search earlier in the day.

"It's just -- I'm not an emotional person," Reynolds said. "But he was a good friend. He got along good with everybody. We're trying to help the family get through this."

Obie Nickoson, Delmar's nephew, said he was heartbroken and surprised by the late-night revelation that his uncle was likely dead. The elder Nickoson, he said, had been a mechanic who was well-loved in his surrounding community. He had also been vigilant -- Obie Nickoson said Delmar had watched the creek near his trailer carefully for 20 years to avoid being taken by surprise in bad weather.

It didn't help.

"I just can't believe it come and got him like that," Obie Nickoson said. "It's like it was never there; (his) trailer is just gone."

Areas of Bracken and Mason Counties like Maysville and Augusta were rocked by storms and heavy rain early Sunday. Floodwater destroyed several homes and businesses in the area.

Reynolds said Sunday's storm was "probably the worst we've had" in Bracken County since the late '90s.

Hyrcza described the search for Nickoson -- and then for his remains -- as having been hampered by large amounts of debris swept along by the floodwater, creating terrain that was difficult for human searchers and dogs alike to trek through. One search dog had even fallen into a pit created by the debris, but was uninjured.

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Although search efforts resumed at 8 a.m. Tuesday, they will end slightly earlier at 1 p.m., Hyrcza said. 

“We’ll do anything to save a life, but when if comes to recovery, we have to balance some things," he said.

He added that it could take time for the area to dry out enough that dogs would be able to pick up the scent of Nickoson's remains, so the search could theoretically take several more days.

He and other officials, including James Sparks of Kentucky Emergency Management, thanked the search volunteers as well as Nickoson's family for their active participation in the search and recovery efforts.

Nickoson lived in Augusta all of his life, Reynolds said, and was part of a large family in the area.

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