FIRST ON 3: UPDATE: Rhea Co. man found dead in Chickamauga Lake Identified
Photo by WRCB Reporter Matt Barbour
MEIGS COUNTY, TN (WRCB)- The Meigs County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a man found in Chickamauga Lake. They say the 29-year-old man and his girlfriend were driving down Blythe Ferry Road early this morning, when their car went off the boat ramp, into the lake. He's been identified as Brian Coulter. His girlfriend, who has not yet been identified, survived.
Search and rescue crews recovered Coulter's body just before 1:00 Saturday afternoon. The Meigs County Sheriff tells Channel 3, at this point, this appears to be a horrible accident.
Just before 10:00 Saturday morning, more than two dozen search and rescue crew workers with Meigs and Rhea County started combing the waters of Chickamauga Lake.
Emergency responders say in the early morning hours between 2:00 and 3:00, Coulter and his girlfriend drove off the Blythe Ferry Road boat ramp into the water.
"She said she'd gone to sleep, I believe, and woke up when they hit the water," says Chief Hugh Bryan with Meigs County Fire and Rescue.
"She remembers him coming out of the vehicle with her, but lost him," says Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton.
Sheriff Melton says she was able to get out of the water, make her way down the road to the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park Visitor's Center, where the manager found her on the front porch.
"She was really confused. But I'm sure she was also very hypothermic," says Chief Bryan.
The manager of the center did not want to go on camera. She says she called 911 and let the woman use her phone.
She called her boyfriend's mother in hopes that he somehow had gotten out of the lake and made his way home.
Within a few hours of searching crews made the sad discovery.
"Sent some divers down and so they were looking at landmarks and trying to see if that was the right place. Then one of our other boats actually hooked the victim with drags," says Chief Bryan.
"It's just a tragedy. It's sad and you never want to get one of these phone calls," says Sheriff Melton.
With signs on the road warning to stop ahead, there are many unanswered questions as to why the man drove into the water in the first place.
Family members were on the scene, visibly upset, after they got the news he did not make it.
"You know, the family, we need to pray from them," says Sheriff Melton.
The woman was taken to the Rhea County Medical Center in Dayton to get checked out. She is expected to be okay.
The sheriff's office is questioning her again to gather more information about what happened.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.