Search Resumes For 16-Year-Old Drowning Victim

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Search Resumes For 16-Year-Old Drowning Victim

CREATED May 15, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The recovery effort to find the body of a 16-year-old boy who drowned in Percy Priest Lake has resumed following a weather delay.

Officials with the Metro Office of Emergency Management said they were using sonar, cadaver dogs, and divers to search Thursday for the body of Kortae Hughes, who drowned while swimming with friends at the Smith Springs Recreation area around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

Witnesses said Hughes was swimming with three friends when he dove in, and never resurfaced.

Heavy rain and lightning Wednesday prevented divers from resuming the search for his body.

Hughes was a sophomore at Hillwood High School. Students and staff spent Wednesday mourning the loss of the teenager. Those who knew him said he had a great smile, and loved football, basketball, and art.

"[He was] just a regular young man, just a joy to be around," said Principal Steve Chauncy with Hillwood High School. "We're just sad today here at Hillwood."

A team of five divers were in the water for hours Tuesday afternoon and evening using sonar equipment to search the area, but it was called off at 11:53 p.m. Tuesday due to darkness and exhaustion on the part of the divers searching for the body. 

"It's physically taxing, you've got 30 pounds of gear, pulling on a rope, a lot of fatigue, swimming with that weight is enough to tax yourself," said Metro Fire District Chief Jim Norman. "Even a lake and certainly a river has got currents and undercurrents that effect what happens when you go under water." 

The search has been especially difficult for divers because the floor of the lake is six to eight inches of silt. Any time it's stirred up, it causes visibility to be lessened and even affects sonar.

"Right now it is a tedious job. We know this is a loved one that is missing, we want to find that individual," said OEM Chief Charles Shannon.