Kayaker found dead in river
Speake man, 38, was looking for arrowheads along bank
By Melanie B. Smith
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.
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