Crews scaling back in search for missing 11-year-old

Crews continue search Tuesday for missing 11-year-old (KSN photo / Shardaa Gray)

WICHITA, Kans. (KSNW) — Fire rescue crews were back out for the fifth day Tuesday looking for Devon Dean Cooley, the 11-year-old that went missing after falling into a swollen and fast-moving Gypsum Creek Friday.

While the rain has stopped for today, Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell said the water has risen about 1 to 2 feet as of Tuesday morning. More rain is predicted for later today, making search efforts more difficult.

Blackwell told KSN Tuesday afternoon that “After evaluating the current situation involving the creek, and in anticipation of continued rains this afternoon, we’re going to scale back our water operations.”

Shardaa Gray
Ron Blackwell (KSN photo / Shardaa Gray)

Blackwell explained that divers are working with zero visibility in a swollen creek and even though water operations are being scaled back, crews would remain on the scene walking the banks of the creek.

“As we look at the forecast and part based on what we saw this morning, there was a rain this morning, the creek swelled. Our divers are operating in a zero visibility operation,” said Blackwell.

As crews packed their gear up, a friend of the family, John Smith, thanked emergency crews.

“I don’t know if I could do what you guys do, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you,” Smith said.

Blackwell says they won’t give up hope. The long days not hampering their efforts.

“People show up every day, energized, prepared to give their best effort and we’re certainly hopeful that today’s the day,” Blackwell said.

But they were met with challenges from Mother Nature.

“What we need more than anything is for the water to go down. We need the water to recede,” said Blackwell.

The Kansas Highway Patrol provided aerial support Tuesday morning and crews from Wichita’s Department of Public Works were called in to help. Blackwell said those crews are more familiar with Gypsum Creek and it is hoped they can help point recovery crews to pockets or holes that need to be searched.

“They’ve provided staff who’s had some familiarity with Gypsum Creek here where there may be deep holes or pockets that we might put divers in if it’s safe,” said Blackwell.

Family friends, with heavy hearts, just thankful for every moment spent searching.

“We ain’t brought him home, but I understand the frustrations,” Smith said. “From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate everything you guys have done.”

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