Two bodies recovered from James River are missing boaters, officials say

Posted at 8:30 AM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 18:22:24-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The two bodies recovered from the James River Monday morning are of the two men that went missing on Saturday after a boating crash near Newport News.

Officials from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) confirmed the bodies recovered Monday morning by police in Victory Landing Park around 8 a.m. were those of Leroy Parker and 58-year-old Robert Coleman. Newport News Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Lay says the bodies were found about a quarter-mile apart from each other on either side of the park.

"They were just good fishing buddies, they were just good friends and would come down on fishing trips and enjoy our waters," said Lay.

The Newport News Fire Department said the Coast Guard and the Virginia Marine Police had taken over the investigation into the bodies recovered.

"We always want to find the bodies as quickly as possible to provide closure to the families," said Officer Henry Reichle with the Virginia Marine Police.

According to officials, dispatch received a call around 8 a.m. Saturday for a boating accident involving a tugboat and a recreational boat.

The Coast Guard told News 3 that the tugboat, Miss Hannah, called watchstanders and reported they saw the bow of a recreational boat pop up behind a tug pushing an oyster barge with a pump barge alongside.

Good Samaritans recovered four boaters who were transported to a local hospital and are expected to make a full recovery.

The Coast Guard suspended its search for Parker and Coleman Sunday on July 15, focusing on recovery operations. “We would like to extend our condolences to those affected by this tragedy,” said Capt. Kevin Carroll, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. “As a first responder, suspending a search is never an easy decision to make.”

Since the search began for two people on Saturday, more than 200 square miles of searching was conducted by Coast Guard boats and helicopters, as well as support from the U.S. Navy, Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Marine Police, Newport News Police and fire, Hampton Roads Police, York County fire and Port of Virginia.

Search assets included crews aboard a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, Coast Guard Station Portsmouth search and rescue boats, a Virginia Marine Police airplane, a Virginia Marine Resources Commission boat, Newport News Police and fire boats and a Hampton Roads Police boat, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission are jointly investigating the cause of the crash.

"They'll end up trying to reconstruct the accident as best they can to determine ways it can be prevented in the future and possible who's at fault for criminal charges and civil liability," said Reichle.