Weekend takes tragic turn

Published 8:26 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A gathering of family and friends at a lake-front property turned tragic over the holiday weekend as one of

Divers from Sullivan County prepare to recover the body of an Elizabethton man who drowned in Watauga Lake Sunday.

Divers from Sullivan County prepare to recover the body of an Elizabethton man who drowned in Watauga Lake Sunday.

the partygoers drowned in what is being ruled an accident.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes identified the drowning victim as 21-year-old Cody Roberts of Elizabethton. Mathes said Roberts was attending a Memorial Day weekend gathering of family and friends at a property on Campbell Road owned by Carl Ray Nidiffer.
The investigation began as a search for a missing person, but the search soon took a tragic turn as it became apparent that Roberts had suffered an accident.
Mathes said some of the guests at the gathering on Saturday spent the night, and when they began to awaken on Sunday morning, they could not find Roberts.
He said individuals were initially unsure if he had left the party or had spent the night there, but that the last time anyone remembered seeing him was at approximately 1 a.m.
“His sunglasses and a few personal items were found on the top deck of the boat house near a railing,” Mathes said.
Mathes said he received the call regarding the incident around 11 a.m. on Sunday. He said officers of his department and members of the Carter County Rescue Squad responded to the scene. Mathes said the Rescue Squad used its underwater sonar robot to search the area and were able to locate Roberts’ body underneath a boat dock tangled in brush in approximately 20 feet of water.
Because of the thick brush underneath the dock, rescue workers were unable to use to robot to retrieve the body, so divers were called in from Sullivan County, Mathes said.
“Evidence at the scene indicates he may have fallen off the boat house. From where we think he went into the water to where his body was found was approximately 20 feet,” Mathes said. “Everything points to a tragic Memorial Day weekend accident. Our heart truly breaks for the family and friends.”
No determination has been made as to whether alcohol played a part in the accident, Mathes said. He said an autopsy is being requested. “I don’t want to speculate at this point,” he said.
Mathes praised the work by the Carter County Rescue Squad and the divers called in from Sullivan County. “I cannot compliment the men and women of EMS (Emergency Medical Services) enough. They did a tremendous job.”

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