Windsor men drown in Virginia

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – A Sunday afternoon boating accident here on the James River has claimed the lives of two Bertie County men.

Virginia Marine Police identified the victims as 52-year-old Phillip Earl Smallwood, and 51-year-old William T. Smallwood, both of Windsor, according to WVEC 13 News.

The fatal boating accident occurred near the Monitor Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel.

Police say preliminary evidence indicates the boat, a 14-foot Manatee, was overloaded with five passengers and coolers. The boat was swamped after the engine failed.

Three other victims were treated at RiversideHospital in Newport News and released.

Anglers along the Wave Fishing Pier told WVEC News they saw a small, crowded boat with five people onboard flip over shortly before 4:30 p.m. Some bystanders tried throwing rope to the boaters who were struggling to stay afloat.

Newport News Police officers were first on scene. Three of them raced down the pier, removing their 30-pound utility belts and vests, and jumped into the water to try to keep the boaters above water.

“The water was so bad, it was throwing people up against the concrete pier,” said Sgt. Andy Shull, who helped throw rope to the officers and the victims.

Shull explained officers battled the rough water for 15 minutes until the Newport News Fire Department arrived to pull the officers and three boaters to safety.

“It was hard for them. They were getting cut up on their hands, their head, and stuff from hitting the pier, trying to hold the people up so they could get air along with themselves,” said Shull.

Crews recovered the drowning victims at nearby Peterson’s Yacht Basin. The boaters’ bodies were taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Norfolk.

Life preservers were found at the scene of the mishap, but a spokeswoman for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission said it wasn’t clear if rescuers threw the life preservers to the boaters.

Ambulances took two survivors to Riverside Regional Medical Center. Medics treated a third at the scene.