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Prayers go up for women missing on the James River in Richmond

Posted at 2:13 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 15:48:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Vander and Winnie Warner have known Sarah Erway since she was a child.

Erway, 28, is one of two women still missing in Richmond following a Memorial Day disaster on the James River.

"Her mother is broken right now. We just held her and loved her. It's love that gets you through this," Winnie Warner said. "She is a precious young lady. So sweet and always there for her friends. Kind, kind-spirited. Gracious. There aren't many people like Sarah."

The Warners know Erway and her family through church.

Vander and Winnie Warner
Vander and Winnie Warner

"When something tragic as this happens, the only thing you can do is reach out and love. Just be there and tell them we're sorry," Vander Warner added.

The search continued Tuesday for Erway, of Chesterfield, and 23-year-old Lauren E. Winstead of Henrico.

Winstead and Erway
(left) 23-year-old Lauren E. Winstead of Henrico (right) 28-year-old Sarah E. Erway of Chesterfield

The women were part of a larger group of people who went over the Bosher Dam while floating on the James River on Memorial Day.

Erway and Winstead never surfaced.

"For Sarah, wherever she is, we know the [paddleboards] are revolving on the dam. She was on a board with just her paddle. But they were all tied together upriver and Sarah was the one that said get back, get away. She's in command. She's a doer. And we just don't know. It's the unknown," Winnie said. "She was so loved. Everywhere she went, she was loved. And she had that openness and that glow about her."

Bosher Dam.jpg

Sources said the group launched from Watkins Landing in Powhatan around 1 p.m. They tried to hit the shore at Robious Landing in Chesterfield but the currents were too strong and swept the group towards the dam.

First responders said they were able to rescue nine of the individuals and one person was able to get out of the water on their own.

Crews resumed their search for the missing women on Tuesday at 7 a.m. First responders from Henrico and Chesterfield are assisting Richmond with the search.

River levels were above nine feet Monday due to recent rains. Due to the high levels, people are not supposed to be on the river without a permit or life jacket.

The high water is also making it hard for crews to search the river. Anyone with information can call Henrico Police at (804) 501-5000.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.