(Lake County, TN) Tragedy hits Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee.
Since the beginning of May, three people have drowned following two separate boating accidents.
Two men in one boat died May 1st during a storm on the lake. Another man died May 9th when high winds caused his boat to capsize.
People who regularly fish the popular lake say the weather and lake conditions can change in an instant.
“You can kind of tell how strong the wind is by the way the trees are blowing,” said Brent Work, a professional guide at Reelfoot Lake for 20 years.
He knows how quickly weather conditions can change on the 15-thousand acre lake in northwest Tennessee.
“It can be perfectly calm this morning and this afternoon it can be terrible.”
Work is also a member of the Lake County Rescue Squad.
He helped search for two men after a violent thunderstorm May 1st.
“There was a big log there and they were trying to get in off the lake, in the thunderstorm, and I think they actually hit that log. And it caused the boat to turn over,” Work said.
Searchers found the men’s capsized boat, but hope quickly turned to despair.
“The life jackets popped out from under the boat…and they didn’t have them on.”
He says their bodies were found early the next morning.
On May 9th, there was another boating accident involving two brothers from Ohio.
One survived, but the other was killed.
Work says the weather that day went from good to bad in just a few hours,
“That morning the conditions was fairly calm. And then that afternoon the wind picked up to probably 20, 25 miles an hour,” Work said.
Terry Newsom has fished Reelfoot for many years and stays on the lake bank when weather conditions aren’t favorable for boating.
“It’s not safe when its real windy. When it’s white capping, people shouldn’t go out. But some of them do and usually something bad happens when they do,” Newsom says.
Rangers at Reelfoot say life jackets must be worn by children 12-years and younger.
Adults must have enough life jackets in a boat for each occupant, but are not required to wear them all the time.
There have been five boating related fatalities at Reelfoot since February 2012.