Searchers Recover Body of Missing College Student along Sharp-Izard County Border

January 16, 2007--Posted at 6:45 p.m. CST

IZARD COUNTY, AR--Searchers Tuesday morning found the body of a missing University of Central Arkansas student. 20 year-old Shane Stauffer of Cave City was found dead in his vehicle in the Piney Creek in Izard County near the Sharp County line.

Shane Stauffer used the long holiday weekend to come home and visit friends and family.

However, after leaving a party early Sunday morning, he was swept off of a low water bridge he was attempting to cross. The efforts of search crews from Izard and Sharp counties proved to be unsuccessful until the high waters finally receded to show a glimpse of Stauffer's Chevy Blazer.

"The water receding certainly gave an indication that a vehicle was there, we were here yesterday and the vehicle was not able to be seen," said Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence.

Once the rescue team spotted Stauffer's SUV 300 yards down from the Piney Creek Bridge, divers from Izard County recovered the body inside the vehicle.

"These low water bridges become impassible when we have major rains in this part of the county," said Lawrence.

Michael Clark lives less than a mile away from the Piney Creek Bridge. He says over 300 days a year at least a little water flows over the top of the already unsafe bridge.

"Because the culverts are all plugged up and because the bridge is broken down in the center, which means it kind of V's in the center instead of raise in the center. It's extremely hazardous," said Clark.

The water at Piney Creek Bridge is still a foot and a half over the bridge and the current is still extremely strong. According to officials they said the water was as high as six foot when Stauffer tried to cross early Sunday morning.

"Visibility was probably a problem, sometimes we think we can pass a low water bridge when we can't," said Lawrence.

Back in 2002, Clark's car was swept off the very same bridge, however in much lower water levels. He is unsure if Stauffer couldn't see the bridge was under water or he just believed his SUV could drive through it.

"At 3 o'clock, it's hard to say. If you are not familiar with the bridge, you don't necessarily know what is here. It could be a puddle for all you know," said Clark.

According to the Sheriff Lawrence, Stauffer's family had all but given up hope the 20 year-old college student would be found alive.

"Obviously we were looking for a positive outcome in our hearts and prayers. Certainly for the family. It's one of those unfortunate things where the outcome isn't what you want it to be," said Lawrence.

Stauffer's body has been sent to the state crime lab for autopsy.