Kayaker search

Search crews work Thursday to find an Athens man who disappeared Wednesday night while kayaking the Elk River.

The body of a man who disappeared while kayaking Wednesday evening in the Elk River was recovered Friday morning near Sportsman's Park.

Lt. Chad Pate of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's (ALEA) Marine Patrol division confirmed the body of 39-year-old Michael Rynders of Athens was found at 11:30 a.m. Pate had no other details Friday.

Rynders and his girlfriend were paddling when she heard him yell at about 8 p.m. According to published media reports, the girlfriend later saw the kayak, but there was no sign of Rynders, who Pate said was not wearing a life jacket or helmet.

Several rescue squads and other groups had searched for Rynders since Wednesday evening. Those included the Athens-Limestone Rescue Squad, Limestone County Sheriff's Office, Alabama Marine Police, Rogersville and Killen volunteer fire departments, North Alabama Search Dog Association, Owens and Pleasant Grove volunteer fire departments and SARTEC, a specialized sonar search and rescue group from Tennessee.

Rynders is the second person to die on the water in Limestone County in less than a month. On June 13, the body of 56-year-old Derek Lane was recovered from Wheeler Lake. On the evening of June 11, Lane and a neighbor were in a boat on the water off Motter Drive in Athens when authorities said Lane either fell or jumped from the boat as it approached a dock.

His body was found by a local fisherman near the 291 river mile marker. Pate recently told The News Courier Lane's death was still under investigation.

Deadly season

Statewide, it's been a deadly spring and summer on the water. Three people were still missing Friday after a pair of boat crashes left 10 people injured.

Capt. Gary Buchanan, a spokesman for ALEA'S Marine Patrol, said searchers were trying to locate two people who were missing after boats collided on Lake Jordan north of Montgomery. Five other people were hurt, he said, including two who were hospitalized with serious injuries. It's unclear exactly what happened, other than that the boats collided.

Crews resumed searching Friday for one person who was missing after another boating crash on Smith Lake north of Birmingham, Buchanan said. Five people were hurt in that incident, he said, and four of them had to be taken to a hospital for treatment.

Photos from the crash scene showed a rescue boat beside a fiberglass boat overturned in the water.

Other water tragedies from this year include:

• A Jackson County man died March 15 when his fishing boat capsized on Raccoon Creek near Scottsboro;

• A 12-year-old from Vinemont died May 25 on Smith Lake when he was hit by a boat near Goat Island;

• A 56-year-old Huntsville man also died May 25 when he fell off a personal watercraft near Talucah Landing;

• An Augusta, Georgia, woman and her daughter were killed in a boat crash on Wilson Lake June 8;

• A Lincoln man fell from a sailboat June 9 and drowned in Mobile Bay; and

• Rough water led to the death of a man at Flat Rock Park on Lake Wedowee June 22.

Boating safety

There are a number of steps water-lovers can take to ensure their safety, but the most important may simply be to always wear a life jacket. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning is the single biggest cause of death in boating accidents and 80 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind, courtesy of boats.com:

• No fireworks on boats. It may seem obvious, but doing fireworks on boats is never a good idea. Take your boat to a location to watch professional fireworks instead;

• Gear up: There’s no way to predict when an emergency will happen, so it’s critical for every captain to have essential gear like flashlights, batteries, ropes, duct tape, a waterproof whistle and a well-stocked first aid kit available at all times;

• Check the weather app: Never ignore ignore weather forecasts. Also pay close attention to sudden changes in wind and water conditions;

• Create a pre-departure checklist: Review a checklist before every trip to make sure you've got everything you need;

• Get an official safety check: Make sure your vessel’s in shape after a long winter. The Coast Guard and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer free vessel safety checks. There are no consequences for failing the check and it just might identify an issue you didn't know existed;

• Make sure the engine passes the sniff test: This is another safety tip especially useful after a winter hiatus. After refueling, open all the hatches and smell for fumes. Carbon monoxide can easily accumulate in enclosed spaces, blocked exhaust outlets and other spots — creating a major safety hazard;

• Make a float plan: Leave a float plan with someone on shore. That way, in case of emergency, they’ll know something has gone wrong. Include the names of all people on board, boat type, itinerary, types of communication options, and the time you expect to return; and

• Invest in a life jacket light: If you fall in the water, a life jacket light will automatically come on and help people find you should the current move you away from the boat. It will also warn any nearby boats in the event that you are not visible. These lights are very affordable and easy to buy online.

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