|Moneta man was the operator of bass boat|
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer
The operator of a bass boat that collided with a cabin cruiser on Smith Mountain Lake on July 31 has died.
James L. McCulloch III, 68, of Moneta died Sunday at Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital in Lynchburg, the second fatality of the crash, according to Sgt. Karl Martin with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).
The body of a Vinton man, Ronald Lemons, 73, who was a passenger in the bass boat, was recovered from the lake on Aug. 9.
Both boats sank on impact near the entrance to Craddock Creek. Both boats have now been brought to the surface by crews hired by insurance companies, Martin said Monday.
After the collision, McCulloch was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Martin said. He was later transferred to Lynchburg.
Two men and a juvenile male from Greensboro, N.C., who were aboard the cabin cruiser, were rescued from the water just after the collision, Martin said. None of them sustained injuries.
The boaters were not wearing life jackets at the time of the collision, Martin said.
The investigation is ongoing, Martin said, but drugs and alcohol are not considered factors in the crash.
Lemons' body has been sent to the medical examiner's office in Roanoke for an autopsy. The body was found after eight days and nights of searching for the sunken boats with sonar equipment in a deep, treacherous area of the lake, Martin said. The target area was located with a new piece of sonar equipment from the VDGIF office in Williamsburg. The original sonar equipment was damaged during the prior days of searching as it became entangled numerous times in the tall trees standing beneath the water's surface.
Once a target area was located, VDGIF Officers Jeremy Hood from Pittsylvania County and Mitch Booden of South Hampton County dived down about 86 feet early the next morning to take photos of the sunken vessels, Martin said.
"Before we located the wreckage, it was not safe to send divers down because of the treacherous nature of the area," Martin said earlier. "We did not want to send divers down into those trees looking for a 'needle in a haystack'."
"By this time, it was a recovery, not a rescue effort," Martin added. "We searched the shoreline for days, hoping to locate Mr. Lemons, hoping that somehow he survived."
The wreckage was located about 150 yards from where the two boats collided.