Marshall man drowns, recovered in Lincoln County

Friday, March 11, 2011

PETERSBURG -- A Lewisburg man drowned in Cane Creek on Saturday and his body was recovered Monday morning, after the rain-swollen creek water came down four to five feet.

The victim, Ricky Allen Smith, was in a flat-bottom, aluminum boat with Nathan Williams of Petersburg on Saturday when, "according to our information, the boat hit a log and capsized," Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder said Wednesday.

"They were floating the creek," Blackwelder said. "After three inches of rain, the creek was swollen and out of shape...

"Rescue teams were put together and it was determined that the water was too rough to put a boat in at that time," the sheriff said. "On Sunday, rescue crews and members of Smith's family walked the banks of the creek.

"It became pretty evident that we were going into a recovery situation," he said. "Monday morning we resumed the effort."

Marshall County's Emergency Management Agency was asked to assist.

"We had citizens call," MCEMA Director Bob Hopkins said. "They were concerned about the search procedures and were questioning them, and were very distraught about it not starting before 10 a.m. and, as it turns out, the Lincoln County officials were exactly correct" in how they handled the tragic situation.

Five people from MCEMA went to the search site, offered assistance and joined the search.

"About 15 minutes after the Lincoln County EMA put a boat (in the creek Monday morning) they found him, so we called back our people," Hopkins said.

Blackwelder said Smith was found "not far from where the boat capsized...

"We had to let the water go down to ... find the body.

"As a precaution, we are conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death, but we have no reason to believe there was foul play."

Blackwelder led the search south of Petersburg.

"We pulled out all the stops to try to resolve this," he said. "Unfortunately, the end result was not what we hoped for."

At one point, there were 30-40 people searching, including relatives of the victim.

Agencies represented during the search included Petersburg Police, Bedford County Swift Water Rescue, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, MCEMA, the Lincoln County EMA and volunteers from all over Lincoln County who are affiliated with various volunteer fire departments.