BY LEANN DILBECK –
The loss of two Scott County law enforcement officers is being felt heavily in Polk County. The three-day search ended Sunday when the body of 32-year old Arkansas Game & Fish wildlife officer, Joel Campora, a Mena native, was found around 9:30 a.m. almost two miles from where he and Sheriff Cody Carpenter attempted to help two women trapped in their home in rapidly rising flood waters near Y-City in the early morning hours of Friday. Carpenter’s body had been recovered around 8 a.m. on Friday.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the recovery of our wildlife officer Joel Campora,” read the post on the AGFC’s Facebook page Sunday morning. He was found earlier today near Y-City where he attempted to do what he was trained to do…save lives.”
Campora’s body was discovered by fellow AGFC and U.S. Forest Service officers, who searched relentlessly to recover their fallen comrade for his family. “We were grateful that we were the ones that were able to recover him and return him to his family,” said Jeff Crow, chief of law enforcement for the AGFC.
The two womens’ bodies have been recovered and identified as Kay Shearn and Vivian Reimar.
Polk County Sheriff Mike Godfrey, who assisted with the search, was deeply saddened at the loss. Godfrey said Campora was just getting ready to be transferred back to Polk County and he was looking forward to having him ‘back home.’ “I don’t know what to say that could bring a shed of light to what good guys they were. There were both so dedicated to what they do. A lot of people don’t realize what all law enforcement officers do and what is sacrificed. Going out and rescuing people isn’t really part of the job requirement, it’s just what they do. It’s who they were. I think if they had it to do again and knew the outcome…they’d still do it.”
Their acts of valor are not just being recognized in Scott County but statewide. Congressman Tom Cotton issued the following statement after news circulated Sunday that his body had been recovered, ““Today, I join my fellow Arkansans in mourning the loss of Wildlife Officer Joel Campora and extend my deepest condolences to his loves ones. Officer Campora lost his life bravely serving his community and protecting his fellow citizens—courageously exemplifying a Wildlife Officer’s commitment to serve both nature and man. I am grateful to all those who have been involved with the rescue and recovery efforts over the last several days. I continue to keep those affected by the recent severe weather in my thoughts and prayers.”
Over 200 officers and 50 agencies assisted with the search. Hwy 71 was lined with people showing their respect and giving honor as both Carpenter’s and Campora’s bodies were being returned to Waldron from the recovery sites by police escort. Both were beloved by their communities.
Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator James Reeves was among many from Polk County who also assisted in the search. He said as difficult as the Albert Pike flood was several years ago, this was even more difficult, knowing both of the men as he did. All that knew Campora will tell you of his Godly character and willingness to always invest in the lives of children and teens.
Officials have said it will forever remain a mystery as to exactly what happened in the darkness of that stormy night. Carpenter accompanied Campora in the his boat and officers nearby said that shortly after they were able to navigate the turbulent waters and get to the house they heard a loud noise they believe to be the house as it imploded from force of the flood waters.
Flash flood warnings had been issued and the Fourche La Fave River is characteristically known to flood but AGFC officials said it happened so quickly you could literally watch the waters rising and swelling beyond levels that anyone has seen in recent memory.
Approximately, a dozen homes were destroyed in Y-City or damaged by the flood and additional houses are 50 percent damaged but still livable said officials. The American Red Cross responded. Communications Information Officer Brigette Williams told the The Times Record that although the number is not definite, they believe there is an approximate 100 people that have been displaced by this deadly flash flood.
An account has been established to assist storm victims. Contributions may be made to the “Disaster Relief Fund” at Community National Bank in Waldron or mailed to: P. O. Box 788, Waldron, AR 72958.
Another woman lost her life when her car became stranded in floodwaters on Hwy 71. She had attempted to get out of her car and was immediately swept under her vehicle. Her identity had still not been released as of press time.
The Ink Fire Department is planning a fundraiser for the Campora family this Saturday at the Lum & Abner Festival. They will be serving BBQ pork sandwiches beginning at 11 a.m. until they run out for $2 per sandwich with all proceeds going to Campora’s family, his wife Rebecca and two daughters.
Services for both Carpenter and Campora will be held at the Waldron High School football stadium.
Carpenter’s memorial is planned for 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, June 5. Carpenter leaves behind a wife and four children.
Campora’s service will be at 1:00 p.m. Friday, June 7, 2013 with Dr. Ken Overturf, Dr. David Birdsong, and Matt Bell officiating. Arrangements and cremation are being entrusted to
Heritage Memorial Funeral Home & Crematory in Waldron, Arkansas.