GREENWOOD - Authorities recovered the body of a fisherman Wednesday whose empty boat and idling pickup had been found at a Greenwood fishing lake.
Greenwood Police Chief Will Dawson said a diver with the Crawford County dive team located the body of Stephen Whitson, 62, about 1:15 p.m. at Lake Jack Nolen when he investigated an underwater image picked up on sonar from a search boat.
Whitson’s body was about 50 yards from the boat ramp where a passer-by spotted Whitson’s pickup idling with the boat trailer backed into the water Tuesday evening. Dawson said Whitson’s body will be sent to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock.
Dive teams from the Crawford County sheriff ’s office and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission searched the area around the boat ramp Tuesday night and Wednesday, Greenwood police Lt. Brad Hobbs said.
Members of Whitson’s family waited on the lakeshore Tuesday and Wednesday as searchers in boats made their way around the lake. Hobbs said the family helped supply searchers with information about Whitson’s habits and his health.
He said a passer-by Tuesday evening noticed a pickup at the boat ramp idlingwith the driver’s door open and the boat trailer backed into the water as if to launch or retrieve a boat. An empty fishing boat was adrift about 100 yards from the ramp.
The man returned about 30 minutes later, about 8 p.m., Hobbs said, and saw the same scene and called the Greenwood Police Department. The 208-acre commission lake is within that city’s limits.
Hobbs said it was believed Whitson’s body was in the small cove where the boat ramp sits, and thus the search concentrated there.
The average depth of the lake is 10 feet with a maximum depth of 34 feet, according to the commission’s website.
Greenwood police and firefighters, Sebastian County sheriff ’s officials and dive teams from the commission and Crawford County searched Tuesday night until 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, he said. The search resumed at 7 a.m.Wednesday.
About 80 people were involved in the search Tuesday night and 30 to 40 conducted the search Wednesday, he said.
The Sebastian County sheriff’s office also arranged for a private helicopter to fly over the lake in an attempt to spot the body from the air in the shallower parts of the lake, Hobbs said.