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Search for missing boaters continues in Hardin County, TWRA now focusing on river

Posted at 10:02 AM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 23:41:13-05

SAVANNAH, Tenn. (WTVF)  — The search for three missing boaters, including two Obion County High School students, has resumed in Hardin County.

Two 15-year-old boys and a 43-year-old man went missing on Pickwick Lake in Hardin County over the weekend after a fishing competition.

We're told by the county's director of schools that their boat was having engine trouble before the start of the fishing competition. Their competitors thought they went home, but it was later determined they went ahead and attempted to compete.

Authorities located their bass boat on Monday about 15 miles down from the Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee River near Savannah. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says the boat did go over the dam and through the flood gates. It suffered significant damage.

It’s unclear if the fishermen went over the dam, but that appears to be the working theory for the TWRA. They’re now focusing their search below the dam along the river and not on the lake.

Boating expert Brandon Dowdy says this incident serves as a reminder that the water can be a unforgiving force. Dowdy explains water conditions this past weekend were rough.

"When you're dealing with current like we are dealing with now, it's better off to stay off," said Dowdy. "If you don't feel comfortable, best to keep you and your children off the water that day."

Communications coordinator Amy Spencer said there were about 100 volunteers searching Tuesday. They met with their boats Tuesday morning at the ramp off Wharf Road in Hardin County.

The TWRA asked for only experienced boat operators from Obion County. It seems the Tennessee Valley Authority may also be helping with the search effort.

The authority has cut the discharge rate through Pickwick Dam back from 230,000 cubic feet per second to 180,000 cubic feet per second. This reduces the water flow rate downstream allowing crews to work in a less dangerous current.

The search was called off at sunset due to hazardous water conditions but will resume Wednesday morning.

A total of more than 35 boats and 100 volunteers searched 75 miles of river Tuesday, along with two helicopters and one drone. No further volunteers are needed. Established volunteers were told to check in at the command post at Botel Road.