Boater dies after sinkhole develops on Spring River in Arkansas

A boater died Saturday after a sinkhole developed on the Spring River, causing a whirlpool. State officials are asking boaters to avoid the area.

MAMMOTH SPRING, Ark. — At least one boater has died after a sinkhole developed on the bed of a north Arkansas river, creating a whirlpool.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission issued a warning Monday for boaters on the Spring River to avoid an area known as Sadler Falls, about 150 miles northwest of Memphis. The sinkhole is below the falls and near Dead Man’s Curve.

The commission says there was a fatal boating accident in the whirlpool around noon on Saturday.

Arkansas Fish and Game Commission identified the victim as Donald Wright, 64, of Searcy, Arkansas, a kayaker who was trying to help two other paddlers who were caught in the whirlpool.

The area has been roped off and is marked with buoys.

Keith Stephens, the commission’s Chief of Communication, said in a Skype interview that due to the location of the whirlpool it wouldn’t affect people who float the river.

“Where this whirlpool is located is kind of a cut through where there are some switch backs on the river,” Stephens said. “It’s kind of a short cut.”

Stephens asks that boaters stay away from that area.

According to the commission there have been three boating fatalities in the state so far.

One is too many but they aren’t as high as the state has been in the past, Stephens said.

Stephens says the most important thing is to make sure that boaters have their life jackets on when floating the river.

He encourages boaters to be aware of their skill level and not be afraid to go around.

“The current is quite fast there and there are some falls there so there is nothing wrong with pulling out of the river and walking your boat or kayak around,” Stephens said.

The commission also suggests boaters reach out to local outfitters, know their equipment, and ask outfitters about any problem area they might come across.

The commission says engineers will examine the area this week.