BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – On Monday night, officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) confirmed that 23-year-old Samantha Hess died on South Holston Lake. It was a busy time out on the water as South Holston saw an increase in boaters for the holiday weekend.
“The water’s a very unforgiving environment, and while we’re out there to enjoy ourselves and have a good time, you could be seriously injured or you could die in an incident,” said Matthew Cameron, TWRA spokesperson.
Officers told News Channel 11 that she appeared to be out on the water with friends for the holiday.
“The deck boat, which is similar to a pontoon boat and has a deck on it and one single haul underneath it, and the personal watercraft were traveling together, and they were in the same party so somehow they crossed paths with one another, and the man was injured and the young lady lost her life,” said Cameron.
He said investigators are still questioning those who were there to find out exactly what happened. When asked about charges, he said anything is possible but it’s still early in the investigation.
“The officers will investigate it and present the case to the district attorney’s office and let them see if there is any culpability involved, and if so, charges could be placed,” said Cameron.
Reports indicate Hess was a passenger on the personal watercraft involved in the collision, and she was wearing a life jacket. The driver of the watercraft was airlifted to Johnson City Medical Center with serious injuries, and he was also wearing a life jacket at the time of the crash.
When accidents like this happen, especially one resulting in the death of someone so young, officials say it takes a toll on both the community and the officers who worked the scene.
“We’re trained to have nerves of steel, but we’re human at the same time, and it really pulls on your heartstrings when you deal with young folks and you have to go and make death notifications to families when people are just out there trying to enjoy themselves,” said Cameron.
In total this holiday weekend, TWRA reported two fatalities, two incidents with serious injuries, one event of property damage and 25 boating under the influence charges.