John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
After a day of boating turned deadly in the waters of Cherry Lake, the Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), with the help of the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, completed a rescue mission that recovered the body of 49-year-old Kenneth Knowles, of Valdosta, Ga.
According to officials, Knowles and his brother were boating on Cherry Lake on Sunday, Sept. 2, and stopped in the southern portion of the lake, close to the middle, to swim. As Knowles was swimming, he became stressed for reasons unknown. Knowles' brother tried to save him from the water but was unsuccessful after almost being drowned himself.
Knowles' brother and other witnesses reported Knowles' last seen location to law enforcement officials and the search began for the missing individual. Because of the time of the evening, the skies became dark and search efforts were suspended due to safety concerns. The location was marked and rescue efforts resumed at first light on Monday, Sept. 3.
Knowles' body was found around 11 a.m., approximately 50 yards from where he had last been seen.
During the investigation and search, the Cherry Lake Public Beach and boat ramp were closed until investigations were complete. "We appreciate the community in staying off of the lake so we could do our job efficiently with the rescue efforts," said MCSO Undersheriff Epp Richardson. "Not one boat was on the lake."
Knowles' body was sent to the medical examiner in Tallahassee out of formality. No foul play is expected and drowning is assumed to be the official cause of death. MCSO was assisted by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office Dive Team, Cherry Lake Volunteer Fire Department and the FWC, of Madison County, Hamilton County and Jacksonville, who brought sonar equipment.