The cause of death for a 71-year-old man whose boat capsized at the Georgia Wildlife Fishing Ponds near Dearing last Thursday was due to drowning, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.
McDuffie County Coroner Rhusha Mack identified the victim as Eddie Joe Light, of the 4800 block of Adams Chapel Road, Dearing. The coroner pronounced Mr. Light dead at 9:05 a.m.
An autopsy performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab near Atlanta revealed that Mr. Light died as a result of drowning, Coroner Mack said during an interview last Sunday.
Mr. Light, an avid fisherman who enjoyed going to the state ponds off Fish Hatchery Road, is believed by authorities to have fallen out of his boat after it filled with water. An investigation by authorities revealed that the boat's plug was missing, which led to water getting into the craft and causing it to sink about 50 yards from the shore of Club House Pond, according to Capt. Thomas Barnard of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division/Law Enforcement Section in Thomson.
His body was found in water between eight and nine feet deep in the 12-acre pond.
He had decided to go fishing by himself earlier that morning. Before launching his boat in a fog, he parked his pickup truck and trailer near a boat landing where authorities later discovered it.
The body of Mr. Light was found floating shortly after 8 a.m. by Greg Abercrombie, who quickly alerted DNR Area Manager Vernon K. Baldwin. After arriving on the scene, Mr. Baldwin wasted no time in his attempt to retrieve Mr. Light. He swam out and brought him back to shore where he attempted to revive him, using CPR.
"I did all I could for him," Mr. Baldwin said.
DNR law enforcement authorities later arrived on the scene, including Ranger Brian Adams, who investigated the drowning death. DNR authorities received assistance from McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Deputy Sgt. First Class Mike Hobbs and Deputy Kerry Johnson.
Also arriving on the scene were several divers with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Dive Team, which is headed by Capt. Bobby Reynolds.
Since no one knew at the time whether or not Mr. Light was fishing alone or with someone else, two of the divers, Lt. Mark Beckum and Preston Ashley, got into a boat with Mr. Abercrombie and began searching the banks of the pond.
They later used an underwater camera to view the sunken boat and made sure there wasn't another body underneath.
Sgt. Hobbs along with DNR Sgt. Doyte Chaffin went to Mr. Light's residence to inform his wife about the tragic mishap. The lawmen were accompanied by Pastor Jim Martin. The officers stayed with Mrs. Light until her daughter arrived.
Mr. Baldwin said the drowning is the first one to have occurred at the state ponds in his 21 years there. There was a near-drowning there back in 2008.