Three people drown in Wilkinson County boating accident

Published 11:53 pm Sunday, January 28, 2018

FORT ADAMS — A 6-year-old boy and two adults drowned Sunday morning after a pontoon boat capsized on the Buffalo River in Fort Adams.

The 6-year-old boy, his mother and his uncle drowned while reportedly attempting to pull up to a duck blind around 6:30 a.m. on the last day of duck hunting season.

The boat began to take on water and overturned, Wilkinson County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chris James said, and three people and their family dog became trapped beneath the waves.

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The water was cold, James said, approximately 49 degrees in the early morning, and the river is approximately seven feet deep in the area where the boat capsized.

One man, a friend of the family, was also on the boat and was able to climb out onto the duck blind and alert authorities to the situation.

The 911 call was originally picked up by dispatchers with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in Natchez at approximatey 6:30 a.m.

The call was transferred to the Wilkinson County Sheriff’s Office, which took the lead on what James said is being considered a boating accident.

The closest access point to the duck blind is Buffalo Boat Landing, which sits down a long dirt road slick with mud from a storm Saturday night.

Deputies arrived on the scene at approximately 7 a.m. and began the search for the missing people.

Emergency responders from as far as Baton Rouge arrived at Buffalo Boat Landing, along with several local hunters and fishermen who volunteered to help recover the bodies.

“There’s no way,” James said, when asked whether the three individuals could still be alive at approximately 2:30 p.m. “The water is too cold. It’s been too long.”

Though the capsized pontoon boat was easily found, it took approximately nine hours to find the three missing people.

The bodies of the three individuals and the family Labrador were found at approximately 3 p.m. Sunday, after being in the water for nearly nine hours.

Officers crowded around the incoming rescue boats and helped lift the three covered figures into the waiting hearse.

Though his assessment was only preliminary, Wilkinson County Coroner Nolan Thompson said the cause of deaths is likely from drowning.

Whether the three individuals had on life preservers is not yet known.

Wilkinson County Emergency Management Director Thomas Tolliver said the loss was tragic.

“It’s overwhelming,” Tolliver said. “When something like this happens, the whole community is affected.”

The community is tight-knit, Tolliver said, gesturing to the many volunteers who had been on the scene for hours.

“When something like this happens, we have to band together,” he said.

The boat had not been removed from the water by 4:30 p.m., when the hearse, officers and volunteers left the scene.

James said the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries would consider the boat as evidence in the accidental deaths.

James said though he had worked many cases and seen many deaths, Sunday was one of the worst.

“It’s just innocent people going hunting, a child,” James said. “And they lost their lives.”