Day 11: The search for missing boater, Kelsey Starling, continues

Challenges in search for missing boater

CRANE HILL, Ala. (WBRC) - The search for a missing boater on Smith Lake grows more challenging by the day.

Recovery crews are taking the search for Kelsey Starling day-by-day, with no immediate plans to stop looking.

Crews used cadaver dogs, drones, divers, and sonar technology to look through a dense forest hundreds of feet below the surface looking for Starling who was thrown from a boat on July 4. The trees, among other, are elements making the search for Starling more complicated.

An underwater forest in Smith Lake is hampering the search for Kelsey Starling, who has been missing since July 4.
An underwater forest in Smith Lake is hampering the search for Kelsey Starling, who has been missing since July 4. (Source: Daphne Search and Rescue)

“Smith Lake has got areas that are well over 200, 300 feet deep. So where it was flooded, all those trees and timber are down there. It’s so much colder down there. She’ll have to be found with a camera and then a dive team,” Lt. Stacy Smith with ALEA said.

25 people have died in boating accidents on Alabama waters in the first seven months of 2019, topping the total number of boating fatalities in 2018 and 2017.

“I think it just may be the shear volume of people on the water,” said Smith.

Lieutenant Stacy Smith with Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said the number of boating fatalities, so far, in 2019, remind her of 1993 when 29 people died in boating accidents, prompting new laws.

In April 1994, the Roberson- Archer Act was passed.

"We’re the first state to have a requirement for boating laws. It lays the age to legally operate,” Smith explained.

Several other rules and regulations were enacted as well, including making the boating under the influence law more strict.

Smith says she believes more congestion on Alabama waters is contributing to the number of boating fatalities we’re seeing.

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