HAGUE -- A second day of searching the depths of Lake George for a man who was presumed drowned after falling into the lake Tuesday ended without any clues to his whereabouts.
The search will resume at 8 a.m. Thursday. Wednesday’s effort was hindered by thunderstorms that forced searchers off the lake at times.
State Police divers handled the underwater search Wednesday, relieving county and local fire department divers who spent hours underwater Tuesday.
Troopers used sonar to scan large areas underwater, and a State Police helicopter also scanned the lake from above. Warren County sheriff’s officers and the Lake George Park Commission assisted.
The searchers were unable to locate William B. Scott, 59, of Westerlo, in Albany County, who along with two fishing partners was tossed into the water.
The two men with him, Thomas Greene, 70, of Derby, Connecticut, and George Boss, 75, of West Kingston, Rhode Island, were able to cling to the overturned boat until help arrived. Greene was piloting the 17-foot fishing boat when it tipped over.
Warren County Sheriff Bud York said the circumstances of what caused the boat to overturn were still under investigation, but it appeared that Scott’s presumed drowning was a tragic accident.
“It’s just a very sad situation,” he said.
Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said Scott was said to have been wearing a life jacket, but it must not have been zipped or fastened correctly in light of his disappearance.
“The belief is he somehow came out of the life jacket,” Lamouree said. “If he had it on, he wouldn’t have submerged.”
Scott also had a history of heart problems, which may have played a part in his ability to get back to the boat or stay afloat, police said.
Officials said Boss and Greene could hear their friend yelling for help for nearly 10 minutes as the boat drifted away.
Unless you have swum from a boat on a big lake, many don’t realize how quickly a boat can drift away, particularly on a windy lake like Lake George.
The men were trolling with fishing equipment known as downriggers, which use cables and weights to keep lures down in deep water. They are commonly used by anglers trolling for trout and salmon in deep waters like those of Lake George.
It appeared the weight on the downrigger became snagged as the boat moved over a section of lake that went from 130 feet deep to 70 feet deep, he said.
That apparently caused the boat to stop short and take on water, either as its back end went down or the operator backed up to allow the downrigger to be freed. Lamouree said the boat also had a drift sock behind it.
Gary Nelson, owner of The Outdoorsman Sport Shop in Diamond Point, a fishing tackle retailer, said he had not heard of a downrigger playing a role in a fishing boat accident or capsizing before.
Downriggers typically use cable with 150-pounds test, which means it can be broken with 150 pounds or more of pressure. The boat and three occupants would usually be enough to break the line.
“Usually when it gets snagged the cable snaps,” he said.