Boat capsizes, 3 elderly men dumped in river
Three senior-aged men had to be rescued from the Roanoke River on Wednesday evening after their boat capsized, dumping them and their gear into the water.
Mecklenburg County 911 received a call just before 7 p.m. from a subject who reported that a man approached his home from the river asking to contact 911. The man told the caller that his boat had capsized almost an hour ago, and he and two other occupants of the boat had been thrust into the water. He advised that all three men were wearing life jackets at the time the boat overturned, however, they had been separated and were in need of help.
The first man managed to make it to shore and locate the caller’s home located on St. Leon Road.
After the homeowner contacted 911, a plethora of agencies were dispatched to search for and rescue the two remaining victims.
Palmer Springs Volunteer Fire Department, Southside Rescue Squad, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were among the agencies dispatched to assist with the incident.
Palmer Springs fire personnel almost immediately located the second man, who had also made it to shore. He was located at the back of a no-name farm road on private property bordering the river in generally the same area.
As rescue efforts persisted for the third man who went overboard, the Army Corps of Engineers shut down all water flow through the dam in an effort to calm the river and make locating the third man easier.
Just a short time later, Palmer Springs Fire Chief Larry Clark, who was searching for the third victim on foot along the shore, located him clinging to a fallen tree extending over the water in the vicinity of Buggs Island, just downstream of Kerr Dam.
Unable to access the victim from the shore, Clark called for assistance. Additional fire personnel arrived aboard a privately owned watercraft, and the third victim was pulled to safety.
All three victims were taken by boat to the Steel Bridge boat ramp where members of Southside Rescue Squad intercepted and examined the victims, who were described as “out of breath and fatigued.”
The third victim, aged 76, was transported to VCU Community Memorial Hospital via ambulance by Southside Rescue, where he received treatment for fatigue and minor injuries sustained during the incident.
The capsized vessel, a bass boat, was located a short time later about 500 yards downstream of where the third victim was pulled from the lake.
The trio’s fishing gear, additional life jackets, coolers, etc., were located scattered about the vicinity where the boat capsized.
While authorities can’t say for sure what caused the vessel to capsize, the waters in the vicinity are generally “rough” due to water flow from the dam, and when one of the boat’s occupants dropped the anchor, it could have caused the boat to become unbalanced.
Authorities advise that only experienced boaters attempt to navigate the rough waters in this general location and exercise extreme caution when they do.
Furthermore, authorities advise to always wear your life jackets or PFD (personal flotation device). Had these three elderly men not been wearing theirs at the time the boat capsized, the course of events may have unfolded differently.
“They were lucky,” said Chief Clark of the men.
Clark also went on to thank Frankie Howerton for his assistance with the incident and providing the use of his personal watercraft for the rescue.