Body recovered; but family disputes whether experienced boater - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Body recovered; but family disputes whether experienced boater drowned

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Jimmie Hess' family and friends get the words they needed, but dreaded, roughly three days after hearing he'd slipped beneath the waters of Chickamauga Lake.

"The waiting has been the toughest,"says his father, Billie Hess. "And it's kind of a relief, actually since they found him."

Longtime friend Brian McClure spotted Hess' body just before 10:30 Friday morning.

"All I was trying to do was to bring Jimmie home, for his family," says McClure.

Home to his three children; ages 11, 9 and 6. And to the father, for whom this end is all too familiar.

"I was raised without a Daddy," says Billie Hess as he choked back tears. "My Daddy drowned when I was four! I know what it's like. Those kids are going to have a rough time!"

"You had to know how he was with his children," says McClure. "I mean, I can't say enough about him, what kind of person he was."

Jim Thompson called Hess a friend for more than half their lives.

"I think he was a water dog," says Thompson. "He was an excellent swimmer."

"Jimmie wouldn't fight," his sister Judy Hess tells Eyewitness News.

Factoring all that in, friends and family say, Jimmie had to have been with the wrong people, on the wrong boat, at the wrong time, in the wrong part of the lake for any of this to make any sense.

"All options are still on the table at this time," says Brian Letner, Boating Officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The TWRA has been working from witnesses' claims that Hess and another man fell off of a sailboat after they got into an argument. The other man made it to shore. The first call to 911 came in shortly before 4:00 Tuesday morning.

Investigators and friends confirm, Hess wasn't wearing a life jacket when they recovered his body.

"Just from the looks of the body, it's hard to tell at this point what injuries he might have suffered," says Letner. "We'll leave that up to the Medical Examiner."

The recovery ends Billie Hess' vigil, but he can't begin to grieve for his youngest son.

"The Bible says, all things are good for those who come to the Lord," says Hess. "Something good can come out of it. I wonder what it is."

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