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TN - man drowns while hunting crayfish

Crayfish hunting tip led to French Broad drowning tragedy
By Don Jacobs

Originally published 08:05 a.m., September 27, 2007
Updated 11:15 a.m., September 27, 2007

A 45-year-old East Knox County man apparently drowned in the French Broad River while showing a friend how not to get too far into the water while hunting crayfish.

Members of the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad about 11:15 p.m. Wednesday recovered the body of Hilford Merriman, said Martha Dooley, spokeswoman for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Merriman’s body was sent to the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office as the investigation into his death continues, Dooley said. Merriman lived on Denton Hollow Road in East Knox County.

Dooley said authorities were alerted at 8:14 p.m. about the apparent drowning at 8205 Kodak Road.

“He was trying to show the other guy he was with how not to go too far out in the river,” Dooley said.

Merriman apparently got too far into the river at the creek where they had been hunting crayfish and was pulled out, she said.

“He was trying to swim back, but the current carried him off,” Dooley said.

Merriman’s friend ran to his nearby house and called E-911.

After a nearly three-hour search, rescuers pulled Merriman’s body from the river, said Leigh Ann Cate, with the Rescue Squad.

Cate said Merriman and his companion were hunting crayfish along the river for a fishing trip planned for today.

Twenty-one rescue personnel converged on the scene with three boats, a kayak and a canine that searched the riverbank for the victim, Cate said. One of the two divers in the group located the man’s body on the river bottom in about 9-feet of water, she said.

Relatives of the unidentified man gathered at the scene as the search progressed with aid from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, Cate said.

More details as they develop online and in Friday’s News Sentinel.

2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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