It might be some time before authorities give us a final assessment of what caused last weekend’s boating accident on southern West Virginia’s New River.
These things are clear, though:
Two men are dead and another is missing. Searchers have recovered two bodies, those of 23-year-old Paul Malone of Lester and 49-year-old Sam Acord of Richmond, Va. The search for the other man, Dean Halsey of Lester, is scheduled to resume today.
Two men survived. Jeff Acord of Sandstone and Daniel Malone of Lester swam to safety after the 14-foot jon boat capsized 15 miles downstream from Bluestone Dam.
Boating practices empoyed by the victims were not safe. The Coast Guard rates the carrying capacity of that size jon boat at three people and 350 pounds. Clearly, the boat was overloaded. What’s more, none of the men were wearing life jackets.
“This would not be atagedy if all those men would have had on life jackets,” said Jeff West, chief ranger for the National Park Service’s New River Gorge National River.
Sadly, this sort of accident occurs with some regularity on the New, a river known for its swift currents and dangerous rapids.
I hope something like this never happens again, but I fear it will.