Crews searching Ohio River for two men find missing 19-year-old's body, family says

CINCINNATI – Search crews resumed their search for a missing canoeist Saturday morning.

Crews stopped their search Friday night just after 9:30, saying it got too dark outside to keep looking.

Earlier Friday afternoon, the body of a missing 19-year-old was found in the water, six days after he and his friend went missing on a canoe trip.

Crews said they positively identified the body of Marty Stanaford after he was found by a search volunteer using a jet ski to scout the river. 

Stanaford was found near the shores of the Augusta Ferry, 10 miles down river from where he and 20-year-old Cameron Buerger launched their canoe in Ripley last weekend.

Crews hope to find Buerger Saturday.

"Everybody is in shock," said family friend Pam Christian. "I can't say it enough. We want to bring Cameron home."

Both men were seen at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3 about 15 miles east of the Meldahl Dam before their disappearance. Family members described the two as longtime friends from Troy, Ohio, a city just north of Dayton.

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

“We’re going to do everything we can to find them,” search group member Justice Speraw said Tuesday. “I have enough gear to go down to the bottom of the river and find them myself.”

Speraw, who went to school with both Buerger and Stanaford, is part of more than a dozen people from Troy who have volunteered to search.

Christian said Speraw and many others will be scouting the river throughout the night Friday in a continued effort to locate Buerger.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has been leading the search effort with three boats equipped with sonar. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pendleton County Search and Rescue, volunteers from Ohio Task Force 1 and Buffalo Trace Search and Rescue are assisting.

Crews said earlier this week they were focused on a 15-mile stretch from the Meldahl Dam to a cabin upstream owned by Stanaford’s family. They are now sending volunteers to parts of the river near the White Oak Creek Marina.

Ripley resident Herb Layford said he spotted Buerger and Stanaford in the middle of the river last Saturday 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."

Stanaford’s aunt, Sherry Peterson, said crews near the dam Sunday found a cooler that belonged to the men.

Peterson said Buerger and Stanaford went to high school and graduated together.

She said the two were very close.

“They're really, really good friends and they're good boys,” Peterson said. “They were just out to have a nice time and we're hoping that we just find them somewhere.”

Buerger and Stanaford were using a green, 15-foot Old Town brand canoe when they went missing. Both men were wearing blue jeans and straw cowboy hats.

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