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Father and son presumed dead while kayaking on spring break trip, family says

Jennifer Thompson

(NEW YORK) — Jennifer Thompson misses “her boys.”


Five days since her husband and son disappeared while kayaking on Beaver Lake in Arkansas, Thompson said that law enforcement is now working to recover their bodies. Lt. Shannon Jenkins of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the two are presumed dead. Thompson believes they likely drowned after one fell into the cold lake from a kayak and the other tried to rescue him.

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

Her son, Charlie Morris, 20, 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 Morris, 46, was a father to Charlie 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. Charlie 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 Charlie 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 Charlie 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.”

Jenkins said the recovery effort would scale back on Wednesday. It’s unclear when or if the bodies will be recovered, according to Thompson.

She said the current theory is that one of the men fell into the water from his kayak. Weighed down by soaked clothing, he struggled to swim, prompting the other to leave his kayak to attempt a rescue. In the cold water of Beaver Lake, the two likely drowned, Thompson said. She added that the theory was corroborated when cadaver dogs hit near the location of the theorized site of the drowning.

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. A GoFundMe to support the family’s expenses raised $87,347 as of Tuesday evening. 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 Charlie was pensive and serious and very much believed in the responsibility of people to be good,” she said.

Miller, who spoke to ABC News 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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