The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, along with the Corps of Engineers and rescue squads from Putnam, Smith and Jackson counties, responded to a call of a kayaker in distress at about 1:30 p.m.
Flanery and his father, Kevin Flanery, had put in at the Happy Hollow access area and planned to take out at Betty’s Island access area downstream.
“The water levels were high, and the current was extremely strong,” said Smith County Wildlife Officer Bob Lowery. “The water on the Caney has been high and rolling for about two months now.”
Bystanders at the Betty’s Island area reported both men capsized their kayaks while they tried to navigate toward the ramp takeout. Kevin Flanery was aided to shore, but Tyler Flanery missed the takeout and was swept downstream. Neither of the men had lifejackets.
The Corp of Engineers was notified, and the generators were turned off. Rescue squads began the search for the missing kayaker, which concluded Sunday morning around 7:30 a.m. when Tyler Flanery’s body was found on the bank of the river. An autopsy was underway.
“We want anyone who is going to be on the water to be safe, and part of that is to always wear a lifejacket,” said Lowery. “With spring and summer rains, there will be times when area streams will be flowing higher than normal, and we want folks to realize that currents can be dangerous and to use good judgment about getting on the water and again, always wear a lifejacket.”
The Caney Ford is a tailwater stream, and water levels are determined by generation from the Center Hill Dam. During times of low generation the river is docile and lazy, but water levels can rise quickly when generators are activated. The Corps of Engineers releases the generation schedule on its website for fishermen and boaters to reference when planning trips to the river.