Kayaker Dies in Alabama



A man apparently launched his kayak into the Tennessee River on Thursday night, one of the coldest of the year, for an adventure.

Michael Shane Biles, 38, of Speake never got home to tell of his experience or to add any arrowheads to his collection.

Helicopter searchers found Biles dead in the water Sunday about 11 a.m. near the Nucor Steel and Solutia plants, about 10 feet from the riverbank, said William Szczepanski of the Morgan County Rescue Squad.

Morgan County Coroner Russ Beard said that Biles was wearing a camouflage life vest and warm clothing. The body was still in the water near Pirate’s Chest Marina off Alabama 20 when he arrived.

The temperature plummeted to 14 degrees Thursday night and 15 Friday night, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

Steve Croley of the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department spotted Biles’ body from the department’s helicopter, said pilot Dean Murray of Elkmont.

He said the body wasn’t easy to see because of its camouflage clothing.

Lisa Owens, who has lived with Biles for eight years, said she knew something was wrong Friday when he didn’t come home. She said she called police, who told her she could not file a missing person’s report until he was gone 48 hours.

She filed the report Saturday morning.

“Undoubtedly he couldn’t keep the kayak up in the water. The wind was blowing hard, and it was cold,” she said.

He was an experienced kayaker who enjoyed going out at night, Owens said.

Owens’ niece, Felicia Griffin, said Biles would go out at night with a flashlight along the river because he could spot arrowheads better. He loved to show off the many he had found. He loved the outdoor life, she said.

“He was a really good man, ” Griffin said.

Biles worked as a welder on different construction sites for Byrd Maintenance Services in Decatur, she said.

Beard requested an autopsy by the state forensic lab in Huntsville. He said a preliminary cause of death could be determined by Monday or Tuesday.

He said he couldn’t tell how long Biles was in the water.

The Morgan County Rescue Squad got the call to search for him about 10:10 p.m. and kept it up until after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Szczepanski said. Limestone and Lawrence County rescue squads also searched. Searchers were out again Sunday morning about 7.

Marine Police officers learned that Biles’ kayak had been taken from the riverbank by someone who thought it was abandoned, Szczepanski said, but it has been recovered. Marine Police did not return calls Sunday evening.

The kayak and the body were about 150 yards from each other, Szczepanski said.

Biles has no children, Owens said. His mother lives in Hot Springs, Ark., and his father is from Broken Bow, Okla. He has a brother, Troy Biles of Birmingham.

Meteorologist Brian Carcione said the 14- and 15-degree lows were among the coldest temperatures of the year.


Kayaker didn’t return from a night trip and the police want a missing person report not a search and rescue operation? And then, someone took the empty kayak without considering whether someone might have been in trouble? I doubt the boat was pulled up on shore looking like someone left it deliberately, but more looking like it had washed into an eddy, strainer, or something.

Bottom line: Don’t need a rescue in that town. Paddle where people might give a rip.

In That Temp…
probably didn’t take more than a couple of hours for it to be over with. If you are in trouble, in the dark, and can’t get out of it by yourself. Chances are you won’t.

That’s just the way it is. It’s what he probably understood (or should have) before headed out at night in pretty cold temps.

Not being critical. Just stating what should be understood by anyone going out alone in the more extreme ends of the spectrum.


OK, but is this advice, “suggestions”,
or general help? You have the wrong board.

one of these things is more stupid
than the others. Can you guess which one before I’m done singing my song?

• 14/15 degrees

• heavy wind

• at night

• camouflage PFD/clothing

Are you really that stupid
and you don’t see “advice” in the story?

sounds like
an area I wouldn’t want to live in.

Here on the NJ coast, a boater (any boater) is missing at sea, immediate search is launched or heads are rolling (& lawsuits are flying).

What kind of logic/humanity would lead anyone to determine it is prudent to wait 48hrs (beyond expectations) for any boater to return??

When was the last time the Coast Guard told someone to call back in 48hrs??

48hrs is absurd by any standard, but in those temps it should be criminal…

Just reading the posted account
it looks as if Ms. Owens may not have known the fellow’d gone kayaking. I know I’m reaching here, but he may’ve been one of those guys who keeps a boat on his roofrack most of the time. On the other hand, it wouldn’t’ve been much of a reach to figure he’d gone to the water, given some of the other information provided by the article.

“Lisa Owens, who has lived with Biles for eight years, said she knew something was wrong Friday when he didn’t come home. She said she called police, who told her she could not file a missing person’s report until he was gone 48 hours.”


reminds me …
this story reminds me of last week’s Kim family saga in southern Oregon.

As many will recall, the Kim family took a “shortcut” through deliverance country over a mountain range in the midst of a snowstorm.

Along the way they passed not one, not two, not three, but four yellow signs advising travelers that the logging road was not maintained in the winter and might be impassable at times due to the depth of the snow.

To make matters worse, instead of turning around and heading back to civilization when they reached the point where the road was impassable, they chose to turn off the main road and try another road NOT KNOWING WHERE IT WENT (the widow’s words)!

Both are tragedies that resulted from a series of bad decisions that don’t reflect well upon the deceased and no other finger-pointing is required.

We can only shake our heads in disbelief as in 14 degrees? At night? What?

Too many questions
Never will know exactly. Bottom of it is that the guy was in no way prepared to end up in the water and/or be wet out of the water in sub-20 degree temps. There are a lot of things that are a shame here, but there is a good chance that he was past any point of recovery before anything could have been done even with useful and alert locals.

We had a lock worker go into the water up here within the last week in upstate NY, wearing a PFD. They were in the process of lifting up the lock gates to their winter position (done so that ice etc can flow thru). He got caught in the boil at the bottom of the lock for a bit and tried but couldn’t connect with the emergency stuff that was being thrown to him, and they found his body downstream all of a half hour later. The boil surely contributed, but the bottom line was that at the current 40 and maybe lower water surface temps we are at now no one will last very long in there.

Are you so stupid that you can’t see
that this post belongs on the Discussion forum??

I was editor for 12 years for the newsletter of a major southeastern WW club, and I have had the sad duty of writing a number of death reports. They are not advice, suggestions, or help. Admit it, the guy put it on the wrong board.

You were an editor?
“I was editor for 12 years for the newsletter of a major southeastern…”

Hmmmm… not a very good one…

BTW-This is the most frequented forum on p.net

A story that helps serve as a reminder to be safe, and could save lives belongs on it.

Quit being a whiney self appointed forum-cop.

I’ll bet you were fun on the playground in grade school…

well actually I would wager B+B has high

Mainy because you guys are all vouyers, not contributors…

He died of the stupids…
invoking the police, his girlfriend, or the hillbillies that stole his yak as being culpable, is missing the point. What he did was so monumentally moronic, it makes me agree with Rvwen. :slight_smile:

At least he was wearing a PFD. MAde it easier to find his body.

I kayak where he died…

– Last Updated: Dec-12-06 9:03 AM EST –

AND go at night, year round....though I tend to stay out in the channel vs close to shore....

A friend of the Huntsville Canoe Club even called to see if I was home, knowing that I kayak out there....

There are valid points all 'round. For everyone who has ever seen my touring yak with outriggers attached, they are there primarily for the use of my sail rig, but they serve dual duty when I choose to yak alone, at night, in the winter, on the river......The yak is YELLOW, as are the outriggers....I have a mounted 360 degree CGI light on a raised pole, the rigger Aka's AND Ama's are marked with reflective tape, (So is the paddle) and the PFD is yellow and black with reflective markings....I have a strobe good for 24 hours, and a VHF radio and a cell phone, both of which are within reach of service at the location where the Kayaker died.....my planned departure, destination and return are known to MORE THAN ONE PERSON......(Did I mention I dress for immersion, carry dry clothes and all I need for shelter and sleeping gear to spend the night out if I must?)

Yay me.

I still stand the chance of dying.

Sht..uff happens; you know, the best laid plans of Mice and Men.....

As for the kayaker missing/ 48 hour thing, near as we can tell, all he said was "I'm going Arrow head hunting"......The Alabama Marine Police, and the Limestone/Madison County Marine police Divisions DO actively search UPON NOTICE for any missing or injured persons on the water.

Goes to show you how important a written float plan is. Especially if you leave it with

someone who can read it and articulate the need for urgency. It has all the necessary info on it and gives the searchers a better idea of where you paddled, when you’ll be back, what you are wearing, what equipment you have, do you

have a habit of being late, the areas you like to paddle in, your experience in that area and as a kayaker etc. Everything you fill out is important.

As far as the person who took the kayak, it’s not exclusively a redneck thing. I see ads on Craig’s List and our local paddling boards all the time about a found kayak and to call so-n-so to claim it. Never bothered to call the CG or local agencies, just placed an ad on message board. Common sense doesn’t discriminate.

These are good discussions, it’s called a “hot wash” in my field. Except there isn’t any of the childish name calling and temper tantrum throwing. Stick to the subject.

Any of you posters who called out “idiot” or “moron” are pretty darn quick to jump to conclusions without knowing the whole story. Why? Are you so brilliant and all-knowing that you can be both judge and jury of something so sorrowful as a man’s death. It sickens me when other posters are trying to help other paddlers learn or be aware and out comes your smug attitude and speculation.

I agree,
We all got it coming sooner or later.

We make our choices & we live (or we die) with them.

But that wasn’t the point for me,

I just don’t feel a 48hr wait is appropriate in any “missing persons” situation.

Why is the first 48hrs so critical in a homocide investigation yet largely ignored in a “missing persons” incident?

Every agency

– Last Updated: Dec-12-06 1:11 PM EST –

has a different policy, but do you know how many people are reported missing around the country every day? There isn't enough man power, resources, time, nor money to investigate everyone who doesn't come home in time.
I can only base my observation of this situation on the only thing we were provided, the article. It doesn't seem like enough amplifying information was given that he was overdue. A float plan with a butt load of details, is very important for searches. Amplifying info makes or breaks a case. But again, I wasn't personally there so who knows.

This is a forum for advice, help,
suggestions. There is another paddling.net forum for death reports and discussions. The original poster was being careless or cavalier about which forum to use. The result of people ignoring the purposes of the forums is that both forums are degraded, especially this one.

As for you, you can neither write like me, please a newsletter audience like me, nor paddle as well as me.