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Officials look for missing hunter

ALBANY -- The search continues for an Albany man who was reported missing Sunday afternoon on Lake Seminole, said Stan Kirkland, regional spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

John Mark Slappey, 34, of Albany was duck hunting with his half-brother, Andrew Dismuke, 25, around noon Sunday when Slappey was pulled under the Jim Woodruff Dam and disappeared beneath the waters of the Apalachicola River, said FWC officials.

Kirkland said the brothers were duck hunting in the Spring Creek area when they decided to hunt closer to the dam.

"They came down (in their boat) about 800 yards north of the Jim Woodruff Dam," he said. "He (Slappey) had a pair of waders on and a float tube and went out into the water."

Kirkland said witnesses told investigators Dismuke went a few yards off from his half-brother in an effort to scare ducks toward Slappey.

"When Andrew returned, he did not see his brother," Kirkland said.

Officials with the FWC said Monday afternoon that recent flooding of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers that flows into Lake Seminole had caused the water current near the dam to become more intense than usual.

"When you have flood waters like we have down here, dam workers can raise the gates of the dam so the water goes through and spills out into the Apalachicola," Kirkland explained.

He said on Sunday afternoon the gates to the Jim Woodruff Dam had been raised to allow flood waters to pass.

"There is a phenomenal amount of water flowing through those gates per hour," said Kirkland. "The sheer volume of water coming down to the river is amazing."

Workers at the dam said Slappey appeared to be caught by the swift current and was floating toward the dam. Kirkland said Slappey also went under the restraining cable of the dam.

"I don't know if he tried to grab onto it and the water was too strong of if he didn't have time or what," Kirkland said. "The workers at the dam saw him approaching the locks of the dam, and they threw a lifesaver down to him."

Kirkland said Slappey lost his grip on the lifesaver and went through the gates and locks of the Jim Woodruff Dam.

"They (the workers) saw him come up in the river once or twice, but then he did not resurface again," Kirkland said.

Around 1 p.m. officers and search and rescue teams were at the scene conducting a search for Slappey.

"We had FWC and other agency helicopters scouting for him," said Kirkland.

Officers and deputies from the Chattahoochee Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office assisted FWC officials in the search Sunday afternoon.

Kirkland said searchers were able to recover the waders and the flotation tube worn by Slappey.

The search was called off at sundown on Sunday and resumed early Monday morning, but Slappey has yet to be found.

"It is a recovery at this point," said Kirkland. "One of our investigators talked to the family and indicated the possibility that he didn't make it."

He said the accident is especially tragic for the family with Christmas only days away.

"It is a tough thing for the family, I know they are suffering," said Kirkland. "He has a 1-year-old daughter, and that is just heartbreaking."

FWC officials said their offices have been flooded with calls from the Albany and Leesburg area from citizens wanting to assist in the search.

"We've had several calls, and we've told them it's not necessary, that we have enough people," said Kirkland. "It is a real testament to his (Slappey's) character to have all these people come forward for him."

FWC officials said Slappey was not wearing a life jacket while harnessed to the float tube.