Underwater Drone Used to Recover Angler’s Body from Center Hill Lake

Victim was an advisor to the Tennessee Tech bass fishing team

TWRA Capt. George Birdwell (seated) operates an underwater remote vehicle and monitors the video screen as Wildlife Officer Dustin Buttram tends the tether leading to the ROV while searching for the body of Scott Northrup on Center Hill Lake Thursday. (Photo: Matt Majors, TWRA)

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. – TWRA investigators used an underwater remote operated vehicle (ROV) similar to a drone, to recover the body of a missing fisherman on Center Hill Lake Thursday.

Scott Northrup, 66, was a retired chemistry professor and the faculty advisor to Tennessee Tech’s bass fishing team.

Northrup was reported missing around 5:30 pm Wednesday when he had not returned home from a fishing trip when expected. His truck and boat trailer were found at the Hurricane Creek boat ramp and his boat was found on the lake around 7:30 p.m. TWRA investigators said the boat was afloat with the trolling motor down. He said it appeared that Northrup had fallen out while fishing, although at this time it is unclear if some other health-related issue may have been involved.

The water temperature was 47 degrees. Most people’s body functions will become debilitated within 15 minutes in water that cold. They are likely to be rendered unconscious within 30 minutes to an hour.

TWRA has used remote operated vehicles (ROV’s) for many years to search for drowning or boating accident victims as well as other underwater operations such vehicle or stolen goods searches. (Photo: Matt Majors, TWRA)

TWRA crews and the Dekalb County Sheriff’s office searched late into Wednesday night and then resumed the search resumed early Thursday.

His body was found in 33 feet of water using TWRA’s remote operated vehicle in the Florida Branch section of the lake. Northrup’s body was about 150 yards away from where his boat was found. He was not wearing a life preserver.

TWRA has used the VideoRay Pro 4 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) on several searches for drowning or boat accident victims.

The incident remains under investigation.


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Richard Simms is a professional journalist and fishing guide in Chattanooga. (See www.ScenicCityFishing.com) He is also a former wildlife officer for TWRA, a book author and a self-proclaimed "River Rat" with a sincere desire for spreading the message about our bountiful natural resources and the people charged with using, or protecting them.


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