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Multiple emergency incidents kick off busy summer at Buffalo National River

Throughout the week of May 16, 2022, Buffalo National River staff partnered with municipal and state agencies to respond quickly and professionally to multiple emergency incidents that occurred within the park.  Emergency services personnel reacted swiftly and decisively while at times responding to multiple incidents occurring at once.     

On Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at approximately 2:10 p.m., visitors at Kyles Landing river access reported a man upriver having a seizure.  Park rangers arrived on scene and coordinated the arrival of an ambulance. When the patient was being assessed by emergency medical staff, he began to seize once more. Buffalo National River rangers and the Newton County Sherriff’s Office coordinated a helicopter pick-up, and the man was transported to a local hospital.  

Simultaneously, at 2:22 p.m. on May 18, while rangers were driving to respond at Kyles Landing, they identified another emergency incident on Highway 7, approximately 4.5 miles north of Jasper, AR.  A vehicle was on the side of the road with its driver slumped over the steering wheel.  A nearby Newton County Deputy was available to make contact and determined the driver was unresponsive, exhibiting no signs of life. The driver had passed away from an apparent medical issue. He was later identified as Brandian Lee Smith, age 44 from Jasper, AR.  

At approximately 6 p.m. on May 18, an exhaustive National Park Service coordinated three-day multi-agency search effort ended with the discovery of the body of missing canoer Brian Hanson.   Hanson, age 56 from Rockford, Illinois, was discovered deceased in the Buffalo River near the confluence with the White River. He had been reported missing on Monday, May 16, after his canoe capsized at Clabber Creek Shoals, downriver from the Rush access. 

Baxter County Sherriff’s Office, Marion County Sherriff’s Office, Searcy County Sherriff’s Office, Hasty Fire Department, Newton County Sherriff’s Office, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas State Police, Lone Rock Volunteer Fire Department, Buford Volunteer Fire Department, Mennonite Disaster Service, and Christian Aid Ministries are among the many who assisted during the emergency incidents that occurred in the park this week. These professional and volunteer partnerships are an integral piece of emergency response in the Buffalo River area.  

Buffalo National River staff extend their deep condolences to the family and loved ones of Brandian Lee Smith and Brian Hanson.  

If you are planning to travel within Buffalo National River, please visit our website to prepare for your stay, including identifying steps you can take to have a safe trip.  Safety – Buffalo National River (U.S. National Park Service) ( 

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