Missing canoeist's family asks for volunteers to help keep searching for son

CINCINNATI – The family of the canoeist still missing in the Ohio River is issuing a public plea for help.

Cameron Buerger, 20, disappeared May 3 during a boating trip with his 19-year-old friend Marty Stanaford.

Stanaford’s body was found Friday, May 9 by a volunteer near the shores of the Augusta Ferry in Augusta, Kentucky – about 10 miles downriver from where the two launched their boat in Ripley, Ohio.

Cameron is still missing, and now his family members say they are desperate for more volunteers to scout the river.

"If anybody has a boat and would be willing to help, all you've got to do is put in maybe at Chilo, and run the Ohio shore." Cameron’s father Robert Buerger said. “You can run the Kentucky shore, but I would focus mainly on the Ohio shore."

A day after crews found Stanaford’s body, a man fishing near North Bend, Ohio found the green, 15-foot canoe Stanaford and Buerger used before their disappearance on the river.

Lance Hodkins of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) said crews had two boats out searching over the weekend. They had to suspend their search temporarily due to inclement weather.

Cameron’s family members said Monday they fear the official search for the 20-year-old will taper off the longer he is missing.

But no matter how much time goes by, Robert said his priority will be Cameron.

“Basically, what we’re looking for now is my child floating in the river,” Robert said. “We have absolutely no idea where he’ll surface.”

Robert said volunteers can help expand search parameters for Cameron in the following areas:

1) Meldahl Locks and Dam downriver (west) all the way to Cincinnati. To date, this area has not been a primary search target.

2) Meldahl Locks and Dam upriver (east) to Ripley, Ohio/Dover, Kentucky. This is the area where Stanaford's body was recovered.

3) Ripley, Ohio/Dover, Kentucky upriver (east) to Portsmouth, Ohio. To date, this area has not been a primary search target.

Crews from several agencies along with volunteers have been searching the river area — at one point a 100-mile stretch — since Sunday, May 5.

Officials said they believe an accident along the river near Dover, Kentucky may have sent the men overboard.

Ripley resident Herb Layford said he spotted Buerger and Stanaford in the middle of the river on May 3 while doing yard work.

Authorities believe he was the last person to see them before their disappearance.

“The waves were about two-and-a-half feet high and the wind was up so they were kind of… having a tough time.” Layford said earlier this week. “I do not know what happened to them after that. It’s just terrible."

If anyone finds Cameron they are asked to call 911 or The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft at 614-265-6480.

WCPO's Sarah Walters contributed to this report

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