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Missing Breathitt County woman declared dead, flood death toll officially rises to 45

flood rescue
Stu Johnson

The total number of people killed as a result of the eastern Kentucky floods has risen to 45. 60-year-old Vanessa Baker of Breathitt County was officially declared dead on Monday. The Lost Creek resident was washed away by the flood waters last July and her body has yet to be found.

Darrell Herald is an attorney who represents the Baker family and filed for the declaration. Normally, it takes at least seven years from someone to be declared legally dead. Herald said Kentucky has a statute on the books that makes an exception.

“Statute says there has to be a diligent search for the person who is missing under these circumstances before they could be declared dead. If ever there was a diligent search, it was this case.”

Herald said the state statute that makes this declaration process faster.

“The statute requires that it be an event the governor has declared a disaster or state of emergency because of the event.”

Herald said many agencies and individuals took part in the search for Baker. Under normal conditions a missing person cannot be declared legally dead unless they have not been heard from in seven years.

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Stan Ingold is WEKU's News Director. He has worked in public broadcasting for 18 years, starting at Morehead State Public Radio before spending the past 10 years at Alabama Public Radio. Stan has been honored with numerous journalism awards for his public radio reporting.
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