Search and rescue teams still looking for final flood victim

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-07 18:12:59-05

BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Early Saturday morning, nearly 200 members of search and rescue teams gathered in Breathitt County to look for Vanessa Baker, the one person still missing from the Eastern Kentucky flooding of summer 2022.

"It's hanging over our heads, you know? We don't feel like our job is done until everybody's accounted for," said Trooper Matt Gayheart of the Kentucky State Police.

Inside a command post, a crew kept tabs on the search teams with GPS positioning. They also used drone video in conjunction with software that helped them pinpoint areas of interest based on colors they saw that matched clothes Baker was known to have worn the night of the flood. One the ground along the North Fork of the Kentucky River, teams sifted through debris.

"Foot search, take our time, be methodical, walk the banks of the river, try to cue in on any kind of clues we can see. Our ultimate goal is to find Miss Baker," Gayheart said.

The teams searched both sides of a 12-mile stretch of the river.

"We're just taking it a step at a time, taking our time, being methodical. We don't want to miss anything, so really trying to take our time and make sure we cover every piece of ground that we need to," Gayheart said.

It's tedious work, checking all the brush piles and debris still here after all these months, but for volunteers who are passionate about finding every last person, it's a job they intend to see through to the end.

"It's really frustrating for a lot of people, especially for the family. I'm sure that they want that closure and it's our job and our responsibility to give them the closure that they deserve," Gayheart said.

Saturday afternoon, there was no sign of a breakthrough in the search.