CRITTENDEN, Ky. – Crews searched seven hours before recovering a fisherman’s body from Bullock Pen Lake Sunday evening after the man fell out of a moving boat without a life jacket on.
Boone County Water Rescue's side-scan sonar discovered the body in 15 to 20 feet of water shortly before sunset, according to Officer Christian Cornette of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
The two-person boat was in motion when the 64-year-old victim tripped on something and fell backward, according to Cornette.
There was no indication that alcohol was involved, he said. Toxicology tests will be done later.
The victim fell into the water shortly before 2 p.m. and disappeared in an instant, according to Crittenden fire Chief Lee Burton.
“The gentleman by the description was fishing off the end of the boat. The driver heard him fall in. Saw him. By the time he turned around, the gentleman had gone under," Burton said.
He didn't resurface.
Divers and boats criss-crossed the area. The main channel is 40 to 60 feet deep, Burton said.
The search continued as dusk approached. Asked how long the search would last, Burton replied, “It will last until we find him.”
Bullock Pen Lake is west of Crittenden in Grant County. Burton said there hadn't been a drowning in the lake for 11 years to his recollection.
"We don’t have a lot of incidents on the lake here ... Most of the boaters on Bullock Pen Lake are pretty conscientious following good safe-boating practices," Burton said.
“They have fishing tournaments just about every weekend. For us to have an incident now after 11 years is a good testament of their overwatch.”
The victim's name will be withheld until verification and notification of next of kin, the chief said.
Multiple agencies participated in the search, including Williamstown, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky State Police and Boone County Water Rescue.
"The Williamstown dive team is in here in the water at this moment," Burton said early in the evening. Fish and Game is actually in charge, since they’re on the water with them. You also have Boone County Water Rescue for a side-scan sonar.”
Rescue efforts were already underway when Crittenden got there, Burton said.
"KSP was already on the water, able to locate the vicinity that he had gone down at. He had not come up. Search on the banks was negative. After a 30-minute period, it was switched from a rescue to a recovery,” Burton said.
Burton offered safety reminders for boaters.
“Refrain from alcoholic beverage. Don’t stand up in the boat as it's traveling down the waterway, especially on small lakes and ponds like this one. This time of the year, you have so much rain, you've got limbs and floats in the water. All it takes is for the boat to hit something when you’re not braced, and someone can go in the water,” the chief said.
Burton also spoke to the importance of wearing a life jacket.
"Regardless of how strong of a swimmer you are, all it takes is one little gasp of water and a bronchospasm can cause you to lose the ability to breathe. People panic, and then unfortunately tragedy can occur,” Burton said.