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Search party drags lake

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June 17, 2003

Cordele-- Searchers are looking for a missing man in Lake Blackshear. The Lee County dive team and a cadaver dog from Helen are helping Crisp County investigators. 53-year-old Johnny Simmons was boating with a friend when he apparently fell overboard.

Jeff Youngblood is circling the shores of Lake Blackshear, trying to spot any signs of 53-year-old Johnny Simmons, "Looking for any signs of him, clothes, a hat or the body itself."

Four other boats with rescuers from DNR and Crisp County are dragging the bottom of the Lake. The SRT team is using a depth finder in the rescue. This device shows the contours of the lakes floor. It shows brush, fish, and it could also show a human body. The search for Simmon's body has been contained to a 50-acre portion of Lake Blackshear near the Highway 280 bridge--this is where a friend who was with Simmons says he fell into the water.

Crisp County Donnie Haralson recounts what Simmon's friend told investigators, "He says he fell off the boat and he tried to help him get back and he sort of fell off again and he could not retrieve him at that time." Investigators don't know how Simmons fell overboard, "There is nothing else that leads us to believe right now that he was thrown off or foul play has taken place but we will certainly look at all possibilities--we will not discount anything."

As for now, this is a rescue. Deputy Youngblood has done it before, and knows finding a body could take awhile, "It usually takes a few days depending on the water temperature and everything else for the body to come up from the bottom. It will either suspend or sit right where it's at, where he went down."

And rescuers believe Simmons is possibly somewhere on the Lake's floor. Johnny Simmons is well known in the Lake Blackshear area. He's a Vietnam Veteran who has lived there for decades.

Posted at 4:10 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com