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Search for Boaters Shifts from Rescue to Recovery
By West Kentucky Star Staff
UNION CITY/SAVANNAH, TN - The search for two 15-year-old fishermen and one of their fathers has transitioned from search and rescue to a search and recovery effort.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced the change Wednesday morning near Pickwick Dam. The 20-foot-long boat was reportedly captured on surveillance video going through the dam Saturday morning. It was found Monday morning, but none of the boaters has been located.

TWRA Regional Communications Coordinator Amy Spencer says several factors contributed to the transition.

Spencer said, "The extensive damage to the boat found near the Savannah Bridge, the water flow, the water temperature, and air temps have led us to believe there is no chance of survival."

She said 20 boats are conducting surface and electronic scans between the dam and Savannah Bridge area, which is about 14 miles away.

TRWA offered their thoughts and prayers to those who are affected by the incident. 

"We do ask everyone to please have respect for the families during this difficult time," Spencer added.

The boaters, who were part of the Obion Central High School bass fishing team, were having trouble with their engine and reportedly were using only the trolling motor while on the river. 


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State officials will continue their search for two Obion County teenagers and an adult on Wednesday. 

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency search efforts that began Monday continued Tuesday, but the three boaters had not been found when searching was suspended at sunset.

WKRN reports that TWRA says the 20-foot boat was seen on surveillance video going through the dam about 8:30 am Saturday, and there were people on board at the time. 

Officials say the boat was using its trolling motor due to trouble with the main engine. It was found Monday morning near Savannah, about 14 miles away. 

A "Friends of Fishermen" account has been set up at First Citizens Bank in Union City to support those affected by the situation and those who are helping in the search effort. Checks can be mailed to OCMA, PO Box 904, Union City, TN 38281. Include "Friends of Fishermen" on the memo line of the check to ensure it goes to the right fund. First Citizens bank can be reached at 800-321-3176. The Venmo account for payment-sharing is @OCMAfishermen.

Over 35 boats and 100 volunteers searched 75 miles of river on Tuesday, along with two helicopters and one drone. TWRA, Hardin County Fire Department, Sumner County EMA, Decatur County Rescue, Hardin County Sheriff’s Department, Henry County Rescue, Henderson County Rescue and EMA, Carroll County Rescue, Chester County Rescue, Obion County Rescue, Fayette County Sheriff’s, TVA Police, Pickwick State Park staff, Jackson Police Department Aviation Unit, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol Helicopter have assisted with searching for the missing boaters on the Tennessee River near Pickwick Dam.

TWRA is asking for only established volunteers for search efforts on Wednesday. No further volunteers are needed. Established volunteers should check-in at the command post at Botel Road.

The search by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers began after the trio's boat was recovered Monday morning below the Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee River in Hardin County. 

Officials say the two 15-year-olds and a 43-year-old were reported missing after they failed to return from a local bass fishing tournament. 

The boat was reported missing Saturday, but the three people were not reported missing until about 9 pm Sunday. KYTN reports that the team's truck and trailer were found at the lake Sunday, and the 20-foot-long boat was found near Savannah.

Obion County Director of Schools Tim Watkins confirmed that the adult is the father of one of the teens, who are members of the Obion Central High School fishing team. 

Watkins told West Kentucky Star the team told their sponsor they were having trouble with the boat's engine before the competition began Saturday morning. He said they're not sure what happened after that. 

Watkins said, "We're still holding out hope that this is going to have a positive end. We ask that everyone be in prayer for the families that are being affected by this, for the emergency services personnel that are risking their lives in the search, and then of course, for our students and our staff here in Obion County as we deal with this situation."

About 300 people gathered at the high school Monday night for a prayer vigil and to support family members and team members. 

Pickwick Dam is in southern Tennessee, not far from the Alabama and Mississippi state lines. 


On the Net:

KYTN Story
WKRN Story (Tuesday)


Published 12:30 PM, Wednesday Feb. 26, 2020
Updated 11:18 PM, Thursday Feb. 27, 2020

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