Searchers Recover a WKU Student's Body from Barren River

Nov 21, 2013

These rapids under the Old Louisville Road bridge in Warren County is where a man was seen Sunday yelling for help.
Credit Lisa Autry

A body was pulled from the Barren River in Warren County around noon Thursday, four days after witnesses described seeing a man in the water yelling for help. 

Warren County Deputy Coroner John White told WKU Public Radio the drowning victim was 25-year-old Adam Smelser. 

According to Warren County Rescue Department Spokeswoman Deborah Williams, the body was found in an underwater sinkhole called an eddy. 

“One of the things than occurred in the last 24 or 48 hours has been that the Corps of stopped releasing water into the Barren River on this end, and what I think what happened is that when they lowered the water level, it put him in a position for us to see him," she said.

Family and friends say Smelser, a WKU student, had walked down to the river on Sunday which was common for him to do.  His roommate filed a missing persons report when he didn’t return that evening. 

Witnesses reported seeing a man get pulled under near rapids below the Old Louisville Road bridge. Williams said the body was recovered not far from where Smelser was last seen. 

“We kind of had a suspicion that he would be close by because we’ve actually recovered someone from there before.  The eddy is so deep and there’s a lot of rock and debris," explained Williams.  "To my knowledge, no one’s ever found the bottom of that eddy.   There’s lots of things down there and you just never know if something caught this person or if they were behind a rock, you don’t know.  When the waters conditions were lowered, it seemed to help.”

Search volunteers from Barren and Hart counties, as well as Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, combed 26 miles of the Barren River since Sunday.