CLAY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — More than 21 hours after a kayaker was reported missing, first responders recovered his body in Dale Hollow Reservoir Sunday evening, marking the sixth boating fatality of the year.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) said 31-year-old Benjamin Thomen of Overton County, was camping with three other people at a campground on one of the islands.
He was last seen by the members of his group when he left to paddle to the Willow Grove Marina for supplies, according to officials. However, when Thomen didn’t return to the campsite, the others started asking around at the marina.
The agency said Thomen was reported missing around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, about five hours after he was spotted by an angler near Goat Island.
The TWRA — along with members of the Clay County Emergency Management Agency, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency — responded for the search operation.
Teams reportedly conducted a perimeter search using thermal imaging, but the operation was suspended Saturday night due to safety concerns.
Officials said they resumed the search at 7 a.m. on Sunday, April 2, with teams assigned to the shoreline and banks covering a large area. Meanwhile, crews brought in side-scanning sonar, a remote operated vehicle (ROV), and a THP helicopter for assistance.
The TWRA said Thomen’s kayak was found around 9 a.m.
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Then, just before 5 p.m., Thomen’s body — which the ROV discovered in 13 feet of water near Big Goat Island — was recovered and brought to the medical examiner’s office, according to the the TWRA.
Thomen was not wearing a life jacket, officials reported.
The TWRA said the circumstances surrounding this boating fatality are still under investigation.