Fatal boating accident remains under investigation


DNR Police release names of victims

ROANOKE — An Independence Day celebration on the water turned fatal Sunday evening at Stonewall Jackson Lake, one of the area’s most popular attractions. Three women from out of state were involved in a tubing accident, which claimed the life of one and critically injured the other two.

According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Police, there were five passengers—two men and three women—on the boat when the Fourth of July celebration turned deadly. At approximately 6:18 p.m., the driver of the boat reportedly swung a tube carrying the three 29-year-old females too close to a rock embankment along the lake, causing the tube to collide with large boulders and brush on the shoreline.

Sarah Hutchinson, of Indiana, was fatally injured in the accident, according to DNR Sgt. R. M. Schaffer. When officers arrived at the scene, they performed CPR, then drove the boat back to shore and helped load the victim into the ambulance, but officers on scene suspected that the woman most likely died on impact.

The other two females were flown by HealthNet to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown where they remain in ICU with “very serious injuries.” Sgt. Schaffer told The Record Delta on Monday afternoon that they have not been able to make contact with the family of one of the women yet and identified the other as Megan Wade, of Missouri. Sgt. Schaffer noted that none of the females had personal flotation devices (PFDs) on during the incident.

The boat driver’s name has not been released yet, but he was identified as a 50-year-old male from Harrison County. The other male boat passenger is reportedly a partner to one of the injured females and also from Missouri.

Given the holiday weekend and the Operation Dry Water campaign, DNR boats were heavily patrolling the lake when the accident occurred and reportedly made it to the scene within approximately 10-15 minutes from the time the call was received. “We received a call that a boat had slung an innertube into the bank near the Vandalia boat launch area. It was actually between there and the dam,” explained Sgt. Schaffer.

Hutchinson was reportedly attending school to become a physician’s assistant at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi. The other two passengers on the innertube were reportedly her friends visiting from Missouri and Colorado for the holiday weekend.

Sgt. Schaffer noted that the boat has been impounded and the driver of the boat has been cooperative; however, the investigation is ongoing as officers collect more details surrounding the accident.

Continue to follow The Record Delta for more information regarding the fatal Fourth of July boating accident on Stonewall Jackson Lake. Please exercise caution and follow all boater safety laws and regulations when enjoying recreational activities out on the water.

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