Two men recovered from lake, identified

Published 11:58 pm Saturday, June 2, 2012

After more than 18 hours of searching Long Lake following a Friday afternoon boating accident, the bodies of two Vicksburg men who were “like twin brothers” were recovered Saturday afternoon by Vicksburg Fire Department divers.

James East, 39, 903 Wabash Ave., and Jermaine Walton, 25, 1205 China St., were fishing in an aluminum boat with Joshua Williams, 22, 1325, in Long Lake off Lake Shore Drive in the Kings Point Ferry area Friday when the boat took on water and flipped around 6:40 p.m., casting the three into the water, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

Williams, who was wearing a life jacket, was able to stay afloat and cling to the overturned boat, and East and Walton were not, Pace said.

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Pace said Williams was hanging on to the boat when deputies arrived on scene, and he was rescued with the help of fishermen in their private boat on the lake.

Divers from the Vicksburg Fire Department and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department searched the lake through the night Friday until they recovered the bodies of East and Walton around 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We brought the witnesses back out so they could show us again where they were when the boat capsized,” Pace said. “From there we began a concentrated search, and both bodies were recovered within the hour.”

Pace said the bodies were in “very close proximity to each other, only several feet apart.” Walton was found first at exactly 1 p.m., and East was found 12 minutes later. The area where they were found was about 17 feet deep.

Pace said that though Williams was the only one wearing his life jacket, East and Walton had theirs in the boat.

“State law doesn’t require that adults actually wear their personal flotation devices, there must just be one for each person in the boat,” Pace said. “But we strongly encourage everyone to wear their vests at all times. This is a tragic example of the importance of wearing a personal flotation device.”

Warren County Coroner Doug Husky said both bodies were being taken to the Mississippi Crime Lab with autopsies scheduled for Monday. He said the cause of death will “most likely be accidental freshwater drowning.”

Family and friends of East and Walton said the two had been friends for years, and they fished together often.

“Fishing was Jermaine’s best sport. He loved it, and they fished a lot out there,” said Walton’s aunt, Linda Blackmore, “Those two boys were best friends, they were like twin brothers. If you saw one, you always saw the other.”

Local attorney Travis T. Vance said he hired East to work at his house when he was 12 years old.

“James was like my son,” Vance said. “He was such a wonderful guy. I’ve never seen a kid work so hard, and he would help anyone.”

East’s nephew, Timothy Spears echoed Vance saying, “He was just a loving person that loved being with his family. He was always doing something for somebody.”

Blackmore said East and Walton grew up near each other and both graduated from Warren Central High School.

“They’ll both be missed,” Blackmore said. “Jermaine was the most loving child, and he worked hard. He would do anything for anybody.”