JACKSONPORT, AR (KAIT) – Two men are in custody pending formal charges in Jackson County after the Mary Woods No. 2 sinks in Jacksonport State Park.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism have been investigating the mysterious sinking of the Mary Woods No. 2, a local landmark in Jackson County. Early Sunday morning, a local pastor found the retired towboat on its right side in 20 feet of water, according to police.
"There were some indications that made us believe that someone was on the Mary Woods at one time before it sunk," said Sheriff David Lucas.
Lucas told Region 8 News police have two people of interest in the case. Police would like to bring them in for questioning.
"Right now we're continuing it as a criminal investigation until we can prove otherwise," said Lucas.
According to police, two sets of footprints were discovered in the snow Sunday morning coming from a small hill. One set stopped at the river before proceeding on deck. The other set stopped near the water. Police obtained urine samples and have sent them to the state crime lab in Little Rock for DNA examination. The foot tracks stopped at tire tracks a few yards from the boat.
"The problem we're running into right now is the only way we can really determine what actually sunk the boat is to get it raised to where we can get on it and inspect if further," said Lucas.
The 157 ton towboat was donated to Jacksonport State Park in 1967 and has been an historic piece of life on the river.
"It's very big to the Jackson County history in Jacksonport. It's an icon to Jacksonport and it's really sad to see this," said Lucas. "I would have never believed that I would have seen the Mary Woods like this now."
Jacksonport State Park Superintendent Mark Ballard said he has called supervisors with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. He said they will further investigate the ship's sinking.
"I don't know what happened and we don't know what happened," said Ballard.
"We know it was upright at 4:30 yesterday afternoon because I was talking to the park superintendent and he had actually came out and with all the snow and everything, and took photographs of the boat," said Lucas.
Click here to read the history of the Mary Woods No. 2.
"The Mary Woods was used much like a tugboat is used today, pushing barges of timber to the sawmill in Clarendon, so it operated here on the White River," said Ballard. "It's been through some tragedy over its course of history."
"It sank in 1984. It was hit by a tornado in 1997. And here we go again with something else," said Ballard.
Ballard said he wasn't sure if the boat would be restored once it's pulled from the water.
"It's an important part of our history to our state. That's why it is preserved as a state landmark here," said Ballard. "We don't know what happened here but we'll look into it and it will be raised again and it will take some time."