A one-vehicle accident Friday evening in Keosauqua, IA, claimed the life of a Memphis man. According to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, Gavin Hannah, age 22, died when the vehicle he was a passenger in, apparently missed a turn on a street and entered a boat ramp area that allowed the vehicle to travel into the Des Moines River.
Law enforcement was contacted at 11:43 p.m. by a resident along the river on Jade Avenue, west of Keosauqua, IA, reporting a possible motor vehicle accident.
According to the initial incident report, the resident reported that a female had come to the door of the residence seeking aid. The caller reported the female was wet and stated that she had driven her car off the roadway and into the river and that there was a male passenger in the vehicle with her at the time of the accident.
The driver, Paris Wahl-Bickham, 21, of Birmingham, IA, was transported to Van Buren County Hospital for treatment, and was later released.
The responding deputy and a citizen volunteer searched the area for approximately two hours but were unable to locate the vehicle.
Memphis Police Department officers were notified Saturday morning, and performed a well-being check at Hannah’s residence.
Later Saturday morning, a local property owner contacted the Sheriff’s Office to report the discovery of a “ripple” in the River that previously had not been there, and that likely indicated something under the water surface. The discovery was made approximately 100 yards downstream from the boat ramp located in the Badlands private campground.
The Sheriff’s Office officers were joined by members of the Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wapello County Emergency Management, Ottumwa Fire Department, City of Keosauqua and the Van Buren County Attorney’s office responded to the scene and a vehicle was recovered from the river.
Watercraft equipped with sonar as well as an aerial drone equipped with forward looking infra-red radar were used to search the river and river banks for the vehicle’s passenger, but the search was unsuccessful on Saturday.
On Sunday, January 6th, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Reserves and volunteers participating in a search of the river area downstream of Keosauqua located the body of the missing passenger.
The accident is under investigation by the Iowa State Patrol and the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.