We were originally contacted by Jenny, a friend of the family, of Kip Burrell, just prior to our second trip to Lake Tahoe area around August 19 of this year. I explained that it may be awhile before we could travel to that area of South Carolina/Georgia. When our schedule allowed, unfortunately, the hurricanes were causing bad weather to that area. As soon as the weather had cleared, Jenny contacted us again.
Kip Burrell had been missing in Lake Hartwell since around July 13. He and his wife Stacey, had gone for a boat ride when bad weather occurred and a wave rolled their boat enough to throw them into the water. The boat was in gear and left them in rough waters. Adam, a local fisherman and good citizen, happened to see Stacey just in time and could get her into his boat. Kip was unable to be located. It has been reported that up to 25 different agencies have searched with sincere hearts and great efforts for Kip. This community is one of great compassion and concern for their neighbors.
Hartwell Lake is a huge man-made reservoir with a dam. It is shared by both Georgia and South Carolina. It comprises around 56,000+- acres and a shoreline of around 962 miles. Maximum depth is around 185′. The bottom has large standing trees up to 50+’ high in spots. It also has many tree stumps, branches, as well as abandoned roads and bridges.
Beth and I arrived at Lake Hartwell on Monday, September 18th. We could meet with Kip’s wife Stacey, as well as her son, Trevor and father, LeRoy. Stacey could accompany us on the boat for an extremely compelling eye witness account. Adam, Stacey’s rescuer, was also able to give us his direct information and assistance. We met at Big Water Marina and were graciously supplied with a slip and much help by the owner and staff. Anderson County Sheriff’s Department was extremely helpful in making sure we had what we needed.
Our actual search started the next morning. We began using our Klein Sonar tow fish for sonar imagery. The trees were very frustrating to deal with, as the tow fish is supposed to be kept at a level around 16-20′ from the bottom. With the trees in the way, we were running at a high risk of losing the tow fish and getting the cable tangled amongst the underwater forest areas. The Lake was calm but extremely hot and humid. We covered a fair amount of our designated search area on the first full day. I met with Stacey and most of her family to show them images of the terrain that evening.
The next day, we began using sonar again. We continued to work our designated area. Just after noon, we came across a bottom image that was undeniably of great interest. We deployed our Outland Technologies 2500
ROV- remote operated vehicle -to get a live direct view of our target. It was a man, we believed to be Kip. We secured him with our manipulating claw on the ROV. I called in Anderson County to assist. The ROV brought him to the surface.
We could bring the news to Stacey and her family, in person at her home, with Anderson County Sheriff’s Department that afternoon. Stacey, and her son Trevor, later accompanied us back on the boat that evening. They could see where Kip had been retrieved from and to leave some flowers and thoughts at the site. She and her family are amazing, loving people. They have our very sincere condolences and heartfelt prayers.
The next morning, we began our 16-hour drive home. We would like to thank the many, many people that contributed to our success in bringing Kip back to his family.