(EMISON) - It's been more than two months since 19-year-old Clinton Hamilton of Bicknell went missing near Emison, but family and friends continue the search. (Washington Times-Herald)
The 5'11", 150-pound Hamilton, who has brown hair and blue eyes, disappeared after his truck stalled in high water west of Emison in the early morning hours of Dec. 11. During an extensive search effort, his truck was found stuck along CR 200W in Knox County. It was locked and there was no sign of Hamilton.
According to his longtime friend, Dustin Bowman, 19, of Sandborn, Hamilton "was out joy riding on a Friday night" with a girl. When the truck stalled, they called several people for help. Some couldn't help, some didn't answer, and a couple who came out couldn't get close enough to help. Eventually, the pair found someone who came out and got the girl, but they said Hamilton didn't want to leave his truck. About an hour later, they returned, according to Bowman, and Hamilton was gone.
Bowman said Indiana conservation officers have been in charge of the search efforts, and Knox County Sheriff's deputies have been in charge of the investigation into Hamilton's disappearance. He said the conservation officers focused their search on two large, flooded drainage ditches along the road where Hamilton's truck stalled, implementing Side Scan Sonar and other recovery techniques without success.
"Rising flood water, ice and poor weather conditions hampered the search efforts, but they carried on," Bowman said. "The conservation officers actually had to change locations on where they launched their boats three different times. At one point they were launching their boats in a drainage ditch and navigating about a mile downstream to get to the location."
Hamilton's jacket was found in the ditch, where divers recovered it about 75 yards south of his pickup on the first day of the search, his friend said.
"It was resting against a culvert where it couldn't go any farther," Bowman explained, adding that his friend's cell phone and sunglasses were discovered in the same general location five or six weeks into the operation. "According to the girl that was with him, he wasn't wearing his coat that night; it was loose in the pickup. They figured his sunglasses were in his coat pocket."
The police checked area hospitals in the week following Hamilton's disappearance. Though Bowman said the authorities don't suspect foul play, Hamilton's disappearance and the recovery of his coat and cell phone have not been explained.
When the water in the ditches receded enough, Bowman continued, the divers walked it.
Then the Wabash River began to rise again.
Now that water has begun to recede searches are planned.The Wabash River has fallen below flood stage. Many of the searches will be done by foot, as well as on ATVs.
He said there are a couple heavily wooded areas yet to be searched downstream from where the truck was found, and officials plan to check the Wabash when the water level drops. They're also looking at what may have happened in that hour time frame when Hamilton was alone at the truck.
Everything within a mile radius of where Hamilton was or could've been has been scoured, according to Bowman. Now the search is widening in case he could've gotten father than they thought.
DNR officials were back in the area Wednesday checking out a small poind behind the levee. But they found nothing.
Hamilton's family is asking for donations to set up a reward fund to be used for information leading to his whereabouts. Donations can be made at the Old National Bank, 215 N. Washington St., Bicknell, IN 47512, or at any Old National Bank location. Bowman said any money left over after the search will be donated to a charity in which Hamilton would've been interested.
Any information on Hamilton's whereabouts should be reported to the Knox County Sheriff's Department at (812) 882-7660.
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