Body of missing boater found in Catawba River; third drowning in weeks

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — The body of a missing boater has been found after Gaston County emergency crews said someone spotted an abandoned boat in the South Fork of the Catawba River Wednesday morning.

The search started around 9:15 a.m., when Gaston County Communications said someone reported an abandoned boat floating near the Armstrong Road bridge.

Officials said they performed ground and water searches for the boater. Multiple agencies could be seen responding to the area from Chopper 9 SkyZoom, including Charlotte Fire's rescue boat and Gaston County emergency crews.

>> We first updated WSOCTV news app users with a notification just before 12 p.m. Wednesday that crews were searching for a missing boater on the Catawba River. Download the WSOCTV news app for your smartphone and get updates on this developing story as they come in.

Authorities told Channel 9's Ken Lemon that fishing lines were still in the water and sandals also were spotted in the water.

Steven Crocker said he recognized the boat because he had just met the fisherman who owned it a few weeks ago.

"They fish in this cove a lot. He was actually down with his grandson," said Crocker. "I was hoping I didn't. That I was wrong. He was a really nice man."

The fisherman's body was found after about three hours of searching. His identity has not yet been released, and it's unclear if he was wearing a life jacket.

"But too many of them come down here, and you just see them wearing no life jacket at all," said Crocker. "They have them on the boat with them, but they're just not wearing them."

"It makes me think twice about going out on my boat by myself," he said.

Officials said Wednesday's incident is the third drowning in the South Fork in less than a month.

Check back with wsoctv.com for more information.