Sheriff dies, wildlife officer missing in flash flooding


LITTLE ROCK — Crews recovered the body of the Scott County sheriff and were searching for a missing state Game and Fish Commission wildlife officer Friday after flashing flooding in western Arkansas, authorities said.

Gov. Mike Beebe on Friday declared six counties — Cross, Montgomery, Poinsett, Polk, Scott and Van Buren — disaster areas because of destruction cause by flooding, tornadoes and severe storms.

More than 7 inches of rain fell Thursday night and early Friday in parts of Scott County.

Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens said searchers recovered Sheriff Cody Carpenter’s body early Friday and were continuing the search for wildlife officer Joel Campora.

Stephens said the two were in a boat checking on a home in the Y City area after the Fourche La Fave River rose sharply.

“Evidently something happened just as they went into the house,” Stephens said. “They were swept into the water.”

He said Carpenter’s body was recovered about one-half mile downriver from Y City.

Stephens said about 20 Game and Fish personnel were assisting in the search for the missing wildlife officer, along with state police and the sheriff’s office. The Sebastian County sheriff’s office said the county’s search and rescue team was called in to help with search efforts, and Gov. Mike Beebe authorized the dispatch of an Arkansas National Guard helicopter to assist with the operation.

In November, Carpenter was re-elected to a fifth term as Scott County sheriff. He joined the department as a deputy in 1997. He was born in Mena and lived his entire life in Waldron. Carpenter and his wife, Amie, have four children.

The governor’s office said Friday that assessments of storm damage were continuing and more counties likely would be added to the disaster declaration. It also said Beebe had authorized the use of an Arkansas National Guard helicopter to assist in search-and-rescue operations in western Arkansas.

The National Weather Service said the most extensive flooding in the state overnight occurred in Scott and Polk counties, where rainfall totals ranged from about 5 3/4 inches at the Mena airport to 7.5 inches at Big Fork in eastern Polk County.

In addition to heavy rain Thursday night into Friday, the National Weather Service confirmed at least three tornadoes hit the state. Authorities attributed the death of a woman found in her car in Scott County to flooding, and a man died west of Little Rock when a tree fell on his vehicle during strong winds.

Much of the state remained under a flash flood watch Friday afternoon, and the weather service forecast widespread thunderstorms Friday night into Saturday, some capable of producing damaging winds and heavy rainfall, with some areas possibly receiving in excess of 4 inches.

“Imagine areas that have already gotten 3 to 4 inches of rain. It’s not going to take much to create more problems,” senior forecaster Brian Smith said.

The Times Record in Fort Smith contributed to this report.