Searchers recover body of teen who drowned in Herrington Lake

Published 8:41 am Thursday, June 18, 2020

The body of a 17-year-old Madison County boy who went missing while swimming with friends in Herrington Lake six days ago was found late Tuesday evening. According to Boyle County Emergency Management Director Mike Wilder, the recovery was made at 9:41 p.m.
The victim was Emanuel Prewitt, a senior at Madison Central High School in Richmond, who had been swimming with a group of friends on Wednesday, June 10, near Gwinn Island. Prewitt and three of his friends were swimming across the lake to reach the island. His friends reached the island but Prewitt did not, according to Wilder.
The accident was called in at about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Wilder said several search and rescue boats from Boyle, Garrard and Mercer counties were on the water at 6:30 p.m. the evening of the accident.
Boyle County Fire and Rescue Chief Donald Sexton, Jr., said Prewitt’s body was recovered within 20 feet of where he went missing. Sexton said typically a drowning victim is found within 50 feet of where they went missing, and despite what some people think, the body of a drowning victim doesn’t float, but instead, goes to the bottom, often becoming entangled in debris. That was the case in this instance, and Sexton said Prewitt’s body was discovered in water that was 76 feet deep. Sexton said that added danger for divers because most recreational diving is done around 33 feet deep.
The body was discovered when a remotely operated submersible vehicle from Christian Aid Ministries was sent down, called a rover, which eventually discovered the body.
“Through our sonar and their sonar, they sent a rover down to make sure that it was a body. Then we basically sent the rover down next to the body and our divers went down the cable (of the rover) to the body,” Sexton said.
He added that given the conditions of the bottom of the lake, the body would have never risen to the top of the water, and without the work of rescuers, would never have been found.
The search went on for six days, and Sexton said that is not normal, but he added that the dedication of the people involved in the effort made the difference.
“This is probably the longest mission we’ve had at the Boyle County Fire Department because we had a group of guys that just wouldn’t give up,” Sexton said. “Usually, after three or four days of search and rescue, most of the time it’s called off. That just wasn’t an option. I work with about 80 of the best folks God ever put on Earth.”
Sexton said help from other agencies was key, including the Burgin Fire Department, Camp Dick Fire Department, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office and Christian Aid Ministries, which has operations in Alabama, Ohio, and Tennessee.
“The Burgin Fire Department sent a boat and people every day, with sonar equipment,” Sexton said.
He said the efforts were helped greatly by The Salvation Army, which brought food and drinks to the rescue site each day, and on the longer days, the group brought multiple deliveries of food for the rescue workers.
“The unsung hero would be The Salvation Army. I would encourage anybody, if they are looking to donate to any charity that cares for their community, they need to consider The Salvation Army,” Sexton said. “They didn’t ask, they just showed up with food and drinks every day, and if we were there late, they came twice a day. So we didn’t have to leave to get food and drinks. They brought them to us each and every day so we could get that kid back to his family.”
Sexton said in addition to the number of days, rescuers also spent numerous hours on the job, working from 7 or 7:30 a.m. each day, and not wrapping up until 11 p.m. or midnight as they cleaned up their equipment and prepared for the next day.
“There was never a complaint, and nobody ever said they were tired,” Sexton said.
Wilder said Prewitt’s body was being sent to Frankfort Wednesday for an autopsy.

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