Since Thursday, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has responded to more than a dozen serious boating incidents, including drownings, a hit-and-run crash on the water, boat fires, sinking boats, and boat crashes, officials said.
“As we head into the afternoon and evening of the Fourth of July, to say that wildlife and boating officers have been busy this holiday weekend would be a vast understatement,” a press release said. “It’s a good thing that TWRA officers hope for the best and prepare for the worst as they have worked tirelessly around the clock responding to over a dozen serious boating incidents on Ft. Loudon, Norris, and Melton Hill lakes alone.”
Since Thursday, officers have investigated or assisted with two drownings, a hit-and-run personal watercraft incident, three boat fires, multiple sinking boats, and boat collisions, as well as making a rescue on Chilhowee Mountain and arresting five operators for boating under the influence, or BUI, the press release said. An illegal black bear hunting case was also made on Friday night.
On Saturday on Norris Lake, officers investigated two boating accidents before the Fire on the Water fireworks show as well as two accidents after the show. In one incident, a couple was rescued from a sinking vessel near Sequoyah Marina, while two boats collided in a separate accident near Waterside Marina. In other incidents, two personal watercrafts collided in the Big Creek area of Norris, and a person fell off the dock at Blue Springs Dock.
In another unfortunate accident, a 19-year-old man, William E. Blasius of Knoxville, died after jumping from the top of a houseboat near Sequoyah Marina in Andersonville. Witnesses said he was attempting to jump over another boat and struck that boat before disappearing into 30 feet of water, the press release said.
“TWRA’s thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family,” the release said.
On Sunday, a houseboat tied to the shoreline of Norris Lake between Anderson County Park and Stardust Marina caught fire and burned without any injuries reported, the release said.
Two BUI arrests have been made on Norris Lake this holiday weekend as well.
While a few incidents occurred on Ft. Loudon around the time of the Rocking the Docks fireworks show on Saturday, most of the activity happened on Sunday night. In the Beal’s Chapel area of Lenoir City around 9 p.m., a boat traveling on the lake overturned, ejecting two occupants into the water. Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities.
At 10:45 p.m., officers were called off of the water to assist Blount County Sheriff’s Office and Blount County Fire and Rescue in rescuing a family of eight who got lost on Chilhowee Mountain. Officers used a GPS coordinate taken from an emergency cell phone call to find the missing party at 3 a.m. In the group was a diabetic 76-year-old man who was suffering from hypothermia after the rainstorm.
“TWRA would like to thank a neighboring landowner, Mark Leonard, who provided ATVs and access for rescuers to help locate the missing people,” the press release said.
Around 11 p.m., a boat ran across a sandbar and was taking on water in Ish Creek near International Harbor Marina. No injuries were reported, and the occupants were towed to safety, the release said.
At 1:30 a.m. Monday, Jereme Peltier, age 34, from Knoxville, died after falling into the lake from one of several boats that were rafted together in the Prater Flats area of Ft. Loudon. Witnesses said they heard a splash and began checking boats in an attempt to account for everyone. When it was recognized that Peltier was missing, 911 was called, and divers from the Blount County Rescue Squad located the body. Unfortunately, Peltier’s 12-year-old son was the only person with him, and the child’s next of kin was out of state.
“TWRA offers prayers and condolences for the young man,” the press release said.
At about 1:55 a.m. this morning (Monday morning), a docked boat caught on fire in Ish Creek on Ft. Loudon. Witnesses report that there was a neighborhood fireworks show in the area, which may have led to the fire. No one was onboard the boat, and no injuries were reported.
Officers have also arrested three impaired operators for boating under the influence on Ft. Loudon this holiday weekend.
The holiday will end with the Festival on the Fourth fireworks show in downtown Knoxville, and it is expected to draw several boats to the Knoxville waterfront as the Labor Day weekend Boomsday fireworks show has been dissolved. TWRA expects to have seven patrol boats present with the hopes of creating a safe boating atmosphere, the press release said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.