Kayaker Drowns in Collins River

The Collins River is a popular fishing and paddling stream near McMinnville, a little over an hour's drive from Dayton. (Photo: Richard Simms)

Ernest Lee Wade (59) from Warren County, Tenn. lost his life while kayaking on the Collins River Sunday (June 25). Wade was a resident of McMinnville.

Wade and Treyton Gritzinger, also from McMinnville, departed on a kayak trip from the Shellsford access area around 8 a.m. After a half hour or so on the water, Gritzinger said he saw Wade run into a small overhanging tree.  Wade, who was in a sit-a-top kayak, flipped, struggled to swim and then went under. Wade was not wearing a personal flotation device and neither man had one with them during their outing. After searching in the water for some time, Gritzinger called 911 from a nearby home.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer responded around 9:15 a.m. along with Warren County Rescue. Because of recent rains, officers said water levels were elevated two to three feet above normal. Swift moving currents and murky water made recovery efforts more difficult but Wade’s body was located in six to eight feet of water around 3:45 p.m.

TWRA Warren County Officer, Pete Geesling, said, “It is always difficult to see the loss of a life. We can’t stress enough the importance of wearing a personal flotation device and checking conditions before heading out. Our thoughts are with Wade’s family.”

There were four paddle-sport related deaths in Tennessee 2016. For more information on boating or for the 2016 Tennessee Boating Incident Statistical Report visit TWRA’s Boating website.

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