The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 31, 2013

Coast Guard: River closed before fatality

— DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — A north Alabama man died on the Tennessee River when the bass boat he was riding in struck a low-hanging wire near a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant, nearly decapitating him, authorities said Wednesday.

Officials said TVA crews were performing work on the line, and the Coast Guard said it had closed 1 mile of the river to traffic.

But the Coast Guard said it had no vessels in the water to warn boaters, and a coroner said the bass boat didn't have the type of radio the Coast Guard used to broadcast warnings about the hazard.

A TVA statement called the accident "unusual and unfortunate" and said the federal utility was investigating what happened.

It happened about two miles from TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

Anthony Szozda, 65, of Athens was a passenger in a boat that was participating in a fishing tournament when the craft ran into the wire hanging far below its normal level, said Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn.

"He was in the passenger seat right beside the driver of the boat," Chunn said. "Based on where it struck the boat (the wire) couldn't have been more than 3, 3 ½ feet high."

The boat was traveling about 70 mph at the time of the accident, about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, police said. Chunn said the driver of the boat wasn't injured.

Jonathan Poole was in a boat behind the two men when the accident occurred.

"The main power line was down across the water and the boat went under them," said Poole. "They didn't see the power lines and they just went under them. There was no way to see it. There (were) no boats blocking the path."

TVA said it had two boats in the water near the scene, and the Coast Guard said it broadcast warnings about the danger more than two hours before the accident happened.

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