Family of missing kayaker hoping for his return as search continues in Paw Paw River

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. — Ora McNealy knew something was wrong when her sister reached out to her late one Friday night to tell her that her husband had not come home from kayaking.

“She contacted me and my sisters and said she was in need of prayers,” said McNealy. “I didn’t know how severe it was.”

McNealy listened to the police scanner throughout the night, sh said.  The next day she heard that they found the green kayak he just bought.

“That’s when I started posting it in social media ‘We need help to find him,’ she said.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said on February 27, Cory Wright went kayaking with two friends on the Paw Paw River. While on the water, they hit a log jam and flipped over. Two were able to swim to shore. Wright, her brother-in-law, was not.

“It was a 60-degree day out,” said McNealy during an interview. “But there is still high winds and the cold temperature of the water, it's a dangerous situation to put yourself in.”

Sheriff Bailey said, during a phone interview, that the friends tried looking for him, considering it was dark out. However their only flashlight fell into the water when their kayaks flipped. They screamed and yelled his name but didn’t hear anything in return.

“He’s a strong guy,” said McNealy. “He’s going to fight for his life.”

Since then, crews from the county and state have been looking for him in the Paw Paw River. On Monday, deputies are bringing into dogs from Michigan State Police to help with their search.

“[We] may not find him ’til the river goes down,” said Sheriff Bailey. “[We’ll] probably be out there for quite a while on Monday with those two dogs.”

McNealy said the family has been getting through this difficult time by supporting one another, especially his kids. Wright was a family man who worked hard to provide for them. She's grateful for the search effort and hope it doesn't end.

"He’s not going to just give up," said McNealy. "That’s the kind of guy he is. He has three children at home. He’s not going to just give up on his family."

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