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Bodies of father and son who disappeared on kayaking trip have been recovered, sheriff’s office says

Jennifer Thompson

(NEW YORK) — The bodies of a father and son who went missing while on a kayaking trip in Arkansas last month have been recovered, authorities said Sunday.


The bodies of Chuck Morris, 46, and Charley Morris, 20, were recovered after 24 days of efforts, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in an announcement, adding: “Our heart goes out to the family of Chuck and Charley Morris, and we are thankful today that we can help bring closure.”

Jennifer Thompson had told ABC News last month that she believed her husband and son likely drowned after one fell into the cold Beaver Lake in Arkansas from a kayak and the other tried to rescue him. Lt. Shannon Jenkins of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office had confirmed at the time that the two were presumed dead.

“What saved me from the beginning of this is that they died together; they were together,” Thompson said.

Her son Charley was a sophomore at Ohio Wesleyan University where he played violin and guitar, competed as a three-season runner, led the orchestra, and aspired to be a lawyer. Her husband Chuck was a father to Charley and a 12-year-old daughter, as well as an acclaimed percussionist with the electronic-jam band Lotus.

According to Chuck’s bandmate Jesse Miller, Lotus had just finished a 25-city tour. Charley was home for vacation, and the family decided to travel from Kansas City to Beaver Lake, Arkansas to unwind.

“We thought it would be a great idea for Chuck and Charley to be able to get on the kayaks before a storm hit,” Thompson said.

While she and her daughter went into town, “the boys” went out on the kayaks on March 16, despite the cold water, strong currents and three-foot waves.

When Thompson returned, Chuck and Charley were nowhere to be found, which was not initially a cause for alarm.

“We got home, and they weren’t back yet. My husband being the adventurer that he is, we’re like, ‘oh, they must be having a great time,'” she said.

According to Thompson, “crisis mode” set in as time passed. They drove around the lake twice, scanning the water for the father-and-son kayakers. After failing to find them, Thompson called the police later that afternoon.

Rescue teams searched the area for days using helicopters, drones, sonar and dogs. Neighbors also used their boats to aid in the rescue.

On the first night, they recovered a kayak, and the next day another, Thompson said. They later found Chuck’s hat and his coat, but other than those traces, the two men disappeared.

“I guess the first couple of days I really just wanted to hold out some hope,” Miller recalled. “You know, as that dwindled, and the reality became more real, I guess the grief started to set in a little bit more.”

Looking back, Thompson said the cold and choppy conditions on the lake were “for all intents and purposes a perfect storm for drowning.”

As the rescue continued, friends of the family and fans of Lotus began an outpouring of support online, including a GoFundMe to support the family’s expenses. With the grief came memories of the father and son — musical dynamos who Thompson described as “beautifully gentle, loving men.”

“Chuck was fun and creative and funny, and Charley was pensive and serious and very much believed in the responsibility of people to be good,” she said.

Miller, who spoke to ABC on behalf of the band Lotus, said that while the group is grieving their late band member, they remember Chuck as a great musician, father and friend.

“When he was on stage, and he was playing that music, he embodied just beauty and spirit and love,” Thompson added.

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