Still no sign of missing hunter

ALBANY -- An Albany man who is believed dead after he disappeared Dec. 20 while duck hunting on Lake Seminole has yet to be found by Florida wildlife officials.

Relatives and friends of John Mark Slappey, 34, gathered Saturday afternoon to celebrate the life of the avid hunter as the search continued.

Search and rescue teams have been combing the area around Lake Seminole and the Apalachicola River, employing cadaver-detecting dogs and helicopters in the search, said Stan Kirkland, Regional Spokesmen of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

"We had two units out today," he said Monday afternoon. "The helicopter was in the sky this morning looking for any signs of him (Slappey)."

Kirkland said searchers have yet to find any clues.

"We have expanded the search," he said. "The current has been very strong in the river, so it may have carried him farther down than we originally thought."

A number of agencies, search-and-rescue personnel and volunteers has participated in the search for Slappey. They include the FWC, Chattahoochee Police Department, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Wewahitchka Search and Rescue, and Bay County Search and Rescue.

Kirkland said officials plan to continue searching the waters for signs of the Albany man's body throughout the week.

"We are going to continue," he said. "If we still have not found him by the end of the week, we may have to regroup and re-evaluate the situation."

Kirkland said there is no way to predict how long a search might take. "I was once involved in a search where it took six weeks to find the body," he said. "That was 33 years ago. You never can tell with these situations."

The swollen waters of Lake Seminole and the Apalachicola River continue to hamper the search, FWC officials say. Rough currents and frigid water temperatures make searching a slow process.

"The colder the water, the bigger impact it has on recovering a body," Kirkland said. "Warmer water temperatures allow the body to float, whereas colder temperatures halt that process."

Witnesses said Slappey was duck hunting with his half-brother, Andrew Dismuke, 25, around noon on Dec. 20 when Slappey was pulled under the Jim Woodruff Dam and disappeared beneath the waters of the Apalachicola River.