UPDATE June 1, 2022, 5:30 p.m.: The remains of 23-year-old Lauren Winstead have been recovered from the James River.
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The search continues for two women who went missing on the James River after a group of 12 people went over Bosher’s Dam on flotation devices on Memorial Day. The ten other people in the group made it safely to shore.
Henrico Police identified the two missing women as 23-year-old Lauren E. Winstead, of Henrico County, and 28-year-old Sarah E. Erway, of Chesterfield County.
According to Richmond Police, the group of kayakers and floaters had intended to exit the river at Robious Landing near James River High School, but due to the rainy weekend the river was at a high level – more than 9-feet in average depth – causing strong currents and elevated levels of debris. The group missed Robious Landing and was unable to avoid going over Bosher’s Dam.
Richmond Fire has had help from Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, the Richmond Ambulance Authority and other kayakers in the search.
Bosher’s Dam is a low-head dam in the James, visible from the Edward E. Willey Bridge on Chippenham Parkway. Low-head dams are structures built in a river or stream channel that extend fully across the banks to allow water to continuously flow over the crest from bank to bank.
The dam is nearly impossible to see for those on the water headed downriver, as shown below in aerial photos taken by the 8News drone.
Although hard to see when you’re on the water upstream, Bosher’s Dam plummets 12-feet before reaching the churning water below.
Police have confirmed the flotation devices seen caught in the dam belonged to the group of 12 that went over. The two missing women were confirmed to have been on a float.
Richmond police said the search for the women spans from Bosher’s Dam to Huguenot Bridge.
Rescue efforts included help from emergency personnel on boats and drones in the skies.
Officials called off the search for the women just before 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. Police said the search would resume Wednesday morning around 7 – 7:30 a.m. Neither woman has yet been found.
“The water is a tremendous amount of force. Safety is paramount here. It’s for everybody involved; for our rescuers, first responders, community– so there’s only so close we can get until the water levels do subside,” Henrico Police Lieutenant Matt Pecka said.
During the same timeframe as the Bosher’s Dam incident, two Richmonders – Christian and Christina – were floating down a separate part of the river and were rescued by a paddleboarder Good Samaritan – Brian Rothell – after their tube flipped over leaving the couple fighting the river current for their lives.
This article was written with additional reporting by 8news reporter Nicole Dantzler.