A fisherman from Bluff City was seriously injured after being pinned between a boat and a tree hanging close to the water’s surface on the Watauga River in Washington County last Saturday.
TWRA Boating Officer Matt Swecker, who is leading the investigation, reported that on Saturday, around 7 p.m., three adult males were fishing a section of the river below Wilbur dam near Herb Hodge Road when the incident occurred.
The trio was fishing from an 18-foot aluminum jet boat when the trolling motor hit some rocks, breaking the propeller and allowing the boat to drift into the low-lying tree near the water’s surface. The operator became pinned between the tree and the boat as the passengers clung to the tree. The boat eventually washed downstream forcing all three men to enter the frigid water in order to reach safety at the shore.
The operator was life-flighted from a river bottom field to Johnson City Medical Center with serious injuries. The other two men suffered minor injuries.
Deputies from Washington County Sheriff’s Department responded and rescue squads, firefighters, and EMS members from Washington County, Watauga, and Johnson City provided aid to the victims.
Officer Swecker pointed out that the river is especially hazardous when the dam is generating water and the water temperature is in the 50s, which was the case during Saturday’s incident. Low-lying limbs and trees also create another element of danger along the shoreline.