Rescuers fighting dangerous currents and low visibility in the Puyallup River suspended their search Tuesday for the man who disappeared Monday while inner tubing near Sumner.
Sheriffs spokesman Ed Troyer identified the missing man as Austin Smith of South Hill.
Weve searched the river as best we can, said Lt. Cindy Fajardo of the Pierce County sheriffs search and rescue team. The river is much too dangerous.
Searchers no longer think Smith is alive.
Were in recovery mode, sheriffs Deputy J. Sousley said.
More investigation is needed to determine whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident, Fajardo said.
Smiths family and friends were at the scene as searchers wrapped up their effort. They described the 25-year-old South Hill resident as a goofy, caring friend.
Hes a caring, kind person, said 19-year-old Nolan Smith, a younger brother. I dont really know what to say right now.
Older brother Cody Smith, 33, said he arrived at the scene early Tuesday.
Im not ready to give up yet, he said of his missing brother.
Smith and two friends were floating in inner tubes after entering the water upstream from Sumner about 6 p.m. Monday. Smith was wearing only a pair of shorts and no life jacket, Fajardo said.
The two friends got out of the water about 8 p.m. just south of Sumner, near Mama Stortinis Restaurant, under the bridge at East Main Avenue in Puyallup. Thats when they realized Smith was no longer with them.
The last time the two friends recalled seeing him was a mile upstream from where they got out of the water, Fajardo said. The friends said he had jumped off the inner tube and into the water several times before his disappearance, she said.
After Smith failed to show up, the friends called authorities, who scoured the area until darkness postponed the effort, Troyer said. Late Monday, searchers found Smiths inner tube. Fajardo said it was intact when found.
Deputies, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, Orting Fire & Rescue and Puyallup Tribal Police resumed the search Tuesday morning in eight boats.
An air search continued, but the weeks heat wave made conditions too dangerous for rescuers on the water to continue.
River flows measured by a U.S. Geological Survey gauge in Puyallup have fluctuated between 5,500 and 6,000 cubic feet per second since Smith was reported missing. Those flows are about 66 percent higher than normal for this time of year.
Rescuers experienced difficulties in the river Tuesday, with boats striking debris from mountain runoff.
It is treacherous, Fajardo said.
The search might not resume for a couple of weeks, and more hot weather could further complicate water conditions, she said.
Its all up to Mother Nature, Fajardo said.
Kari Plog: 253-597-8682