Search Teams Recover Body of 23-Year-Old Woman Who Went Missing After Going Over Virginia Dam

·2 min read
Lauren E. Winstead
Lauren E. Winstead

Henrico County Police

Search teams have recovered the remains of a missing 23-year-old woman, who was one of 12 people to fall over a dam on the James River in Virginia on Memorial Day.

The body of Lauren Winstead, of Henrico County, was recovered Wednesday around 1:30 p.m., just west of the Powhite Parkway Bridge, according to a statement shared by the Henrico County Police Department on social media.

Winstead and Sarah Erway, 28, of Chesterfield County, went missing Monday after the group plunged over the edge of Bosher's Dam while kayaking on the river.

"Our deepest condolences are with Ms. Winstead's family during this difficult time," police said in a statement.

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Police went on to announce that the search for Erway will be "transitioning from a search and rescue mission to a recovery operation."

HCPD Lieutenant Matthew C. Pecka confirmed to PEOPLE on Thursday that "recovery efforts to locate Sarah Erway" are ongoing.

"This is a difficult time for everyone involved; the family, friends, and the first responders who are out in the field," Pecka added.

missing kayakers Sarah E. Erway and Lauren E. Winstead
missing kayakers Sarah E. Erway and Lauren E. Winstead

Henrico County Police (2)

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Richmond Fire Department Batallion Chief Robert Maass said Winstead's body was found about five miles from the dam she fell over on Monday.

Her cause and manner of death will be determined by the state medical examiner, according to ABC station WRIC.

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Maass said officials have met with the families of both victims of Monday's accident "to let them know where we're at with the operations."

Winne Warner, wife of Rev. Vander Warner and a longtime friend of Erway's family, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that she was with the victim's family shortly before they were informed of the transition from rescue to recovery.

"I was just with her mother today before they were called away to the station … That's where they learned the news," she told the outlet, adding, "It's just so sad."

"I had a moment of deep sadness when I thought about how Lauren's mother must feel," Vander explained. "To think they may not even find Sarah, it's just scary."

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Though the search continues, water levels at James River remain "elevated" despite going down in recent days. Maass told reporters on Wednesday that the high waters have complicated the search.

"The water's churned up. The water's nasty," he explained. "There's a lot of mud and dirt in the water as well as debris which makes the search difficult."

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 804-501-5000.