Sheriff, neighbors warn of river dangers

Penny Curtner was found Thursday near the Highway 42 bridge in Maries County.

A St. James, Missouri, woman was found safe Wednesday after spending nearly two days lost in the woods near the Gasconade River.

Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman said Penny Curtner went missing while tubing with friends Monday evening and was found by a camper near the Highway 42 bridge around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

"She ended up getting lost in the woods the night she went missing...spent the whole day in the woods lost, and then the next night she slept in a tractor. And then she found her way back to the river and got located by another camper, who brought her back to the Sheriff's office," Sheriff Heitman said.

He added that she may have separated from her friends after an argument, and the last person to see her said she may have been slightly intoxicated at the time.

John Huff, of Rolla, is staying in a camper on the Gasconade and says there are many dangers lurking in the woods.

"Around here the woods all look the same. You get back here and you think that you're at one spot and you come back to it again...just walking in circles. [There's] snakes, and there's bluffs you can fall off and drop offs," Huff said.

Huff also said that in the event that you get lost or separated from a group, the best thing to do is stay on the river.

"There will be a boat that will come through, or somebody will be coming down the river. First thing I'd carry is a life jacket or a floating pillow or something to air up and just hang on to. Main thing is a lot of people panic. Don't panic, and keep your wit," Huff said.

Sheriff Heitman also had some safety tips.

"First thing, it's never smart to go on an inner tube alone or be on the river alone. Anything could happen and it's always good to have someone with you. Another thing, don't get too intoxicated," he said.