08/05/2008 Body of missing Larned man found

Two-day search of Lake Wilson ends in tragedy

DALE HOGG [email protected]


WILSON LAKE - A frantic two-day search under the scorching August sun for a Larned man missing since Saturday evening here ended with the discovery of his body Monday night.
The discovery came at about 7 p.m. after family, friends, volunteers and rescue personnel using boats, horses, all-terrain vehicles and their feet searched for Colby Callahan, last seen zipping across Wilson Lake on a jet ski.
Callahan, 20, left a family reunion on the craft to get gas, but somewhere between the north and south shores of this serpentine lake, he got lost. Official and unofficial searches scoured the water and the rugged shoreline after he disappeared heading for the marina to refuel the craft.
"They just found his body," said his mother Tawanna Callahan, reached at the lake via cell phone merely an hour after he was located. He was found 75 feet from where the jet ski he was riding was discovered Sunday.
"We're just glad they found him," she said, fighting back the tears. "We just appreciate all everyone has done." She thanked all of those who took part in the search, many responding on a moment's notice.
In addition to the army of friends, family and other volunteers involved in the search, the Russell County Sheriff's Office headed up the rescue effort. Law enforcement officials could not be reached Monday night.
The Callahans were attending a family reunion in Lucas Park, on the north shore of the lake in the area operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tawanna Callahan said Colby left their campsite on his friend's jet ski at between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, southbound for the marina across the lake in the area managed by the Department of Wildlife and Parks.
"They saw him put on his life jacket and buckle it up," she said.
He left to get gasoline in the craft. However, he never arrived.
By 7:30 p.m., Tawanna Callahan said family and friends started getting worried because he should have been back. That's when they started searching.
At about 8:30, Tawanna Callahan said her brother-in-law spotted Colby Callahan in a brush thicket on shore.
The jet ski was found by a cousin in a cove near the marina. "The life jacket was laid across the jet ski and the key was in the ignition," the mother said. One of his sandals was found floating in the water. It was as if, she said, he had just gotten off and left it.
By this time, the search included family and friends. "Our whole family stayed up here," Tawanna said. They used boats and jet skis, disembarking to scour the rocky shore. Some of Colby's friends and their mothers also came to the lake to help.
Sunday, the Russell Sheriff's Office and other volunteers joined the effort. They combed the area on foot and horseback, and on four-wheelers. Dogs were even used to locate a scent. At least one helicopter was circling above.
"They only had one rescue team," she said. After a scorching day searching from 6 a.m.. to 5 p.m., they called it quits due to the heat. They resumed at 8 a.m. Monday.
Sonar has been used and divers have been brought in to help.
As for what happened, that remains a mystery. "He could have run out of gas," Tawanna Callahan said. Or, due to the intense heat, perhaps he became disoriented and got lost. Or, he might have been picked up by someone.
Whatever happened, "there were no signs of him."
Colby Callahan was the son of Frank Jr. and Tawanna Callahan, also of Larned.