Rescue workers search for missing canoeist in Tellico Lake
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rescue workers are searching for a missing canoeist who fell into Tellico Lake late Sunday afternoon near U.S. 129, at the first turnoff just past the split with Tenn. Highway 72.
Authorities have not yet confirmed names, but according to a witness on the scene, Eddie Russell, of Maryville, who was believed to be in his early 20s, was canoeing in the lake along with friends James Parker and Eric Morgan, both of Maryville and in their early 20s. The canoe tipped over, and Parker swam back to shore while Morgan struggled in the water and Russell went under.
Rescue workers pulled Morgan from the water a short time later, and he was transported to the hospital. None of the three men were wearing life jackets.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office, the Blount County Fire Department’s Support/Hazmat, Special Operations and Dive Teams, as well as a crew from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) were on the scene. They searched for Russell for almost two hours with no results, and were regrouping as of Sunday evening.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Parker said not long after he made it back to shore, visibly shaken. “I just swam back.”
The witness, Chelsea Briggs, of Maryville, was with the three men and called 911. She identified them to The Daily Times and gave a narrative of the incident.
“We had just gotten here about 4:30, almost five,” Briggs said. “I was sitting out here on the dock reading a book, and they all went out on the canoe. Eddie tried to pull in the anchor and they started to paddle, and that’s when they flipped over and it just went from there.”
“James swam back to shore,” Briggs continued. “Eric stayed on the canoe and Eddie just drifted off. I really didn’t know what to do. I was going to try to get Eric because he was panicking the most. He told me the water was cold and couldn’t move. I didn’t want to go out there and risk not being able to help. I’m really scared. I just want Eddie to be OK.”
No other information was available, but the search was expected to continue before any presumption of a drowning is made official.