Man dies after barge hits boat on Watts Bar

Divers recover body; 2 others swam to safety

A 55-year-old man died Friday after a barge hit his boat on Watts Bar Lake in the early morning darkness.

Divers recovered the man's body Friday afternoon, Loudon Fire Department Chief Mike Brubaker said. Brubaker said the victim was found "by our use of sonar and our divers we were using from surrounding counties."

Authorities have not released the name of the victim.

Brubaker said authorities were alerted at 2:30 a.m. that a private boat had been hit by a barge on the lake near the U.S. Highway 11 bridge. An emergency dispatcher said the boat was anchored and the three males aboard were sleeping when the craft was struck by the barge. Brubaker said he didn't have details of how the accident occurred.

The trio of boaters are from North Carolina and are related, he said.

Brubaker said two of the occupants were able to swim to the barge.

Brubaker said emergency personnel conducted "some quick searches and put some divers in the water" immediately after the crash. Darkness inhibited the rescue efforts, so authorities opted to resume the search at 7 a.m.

Brubaker said that in addition to the Loudon Fire Department and the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad, rescue agencies from Blount and Roane counties joined in the search. More than 50 people from four counties gathered to search for the missing boater.

The man's body was found about 100 yards from the site of the accident, in the channel, around 3:10 p.m.

"I've been told (the water is) anywhere from 17 to 30 feet (deep) in that area," Brubaker said.

Earlier in the day, the U. S. Coast Guard issued an "urgent marine information broadcast" warning other craft to be alert for searchers in the area and to watch for the missing man, said Petty Officer Steve Lehmann, with the external affairs unit of the U.S. Coast Guard. The crash, he said, occurred at mile marker 591.

Lehmann said the barge was under tow by the tugboat Bearcat. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has the private craft, which appeared to be intact, Brubaker said.