Life and Loss: A Brother’s Story

It was a seemingly perfect day, March of 2012, the air was cool, the water a little rough but Roy, Gene and James May had set out to fish at Kentucky Dam.

“Everything was going good until we got out there the motor wouldn’t run anymore just went dead on us and wouldn’t crank,” says Roy May.

Roy sat down with Local 6, at Kentucky Dam, 2 yeas after the accident. This is the first time he’s speaking out about the tragic day on the water. He says coming back to the dam isn’t hard for him, what’s difficult is the emptiness he feels after losing his brothers.

On that day back in 2012, locks 1, 3 and 4 at the dam were open. Water was pouring over the top, creating a swift current. The May’s boat, without a working motor, drifted very fast into lock 1 where it capsized.

“It took us under and just disintegrated the boat,” says Roy.

With no life jackets on, the turbulent waters stripped Roy, Gene and James of their clothes sending them into a spin. Gene and James never came up. Roy was rescued 100 yards from where he went in.

“There’s no reason I could have made it,” says Roy. “It’s no way I could make it on my own I can’t swim.”

Roy says he wasn’t alone under that water.

“While I was down there I heard a couple of voices speaking into me. And it wasn’t just in my head it was like somebody was sitting next side to me talking to me. The first voice said you can forget everything up above you got nothing up there no more. It said you have a mouthful water why don’t you make it easy on yourself take a little bit more water. You can fight it if you want to but you’re not to make it there’s no way. And then this other voice spoke. You have got your family up there still and Katelynn, who you think so much of, is up there. What are you going to do? I said please forgive me father, please help me. And from that time on I tried and started to dog paddle I guess you can say.”

For hours search crews battled rough waters and cold temperatures but Gene and James were nowhere to be found. Two weeks later James was found on the outerbanks of the Tennessee River. The search continued for Gene but eventually it was suspended.

Two years later arrowhead hunter, Keith Peeks, was below the Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River.

“It was one of the nicest days we had this year, ” says Keith Peeks. “I never even stop there and when I drove by in my boat something just told me to go over there and arrowhead and I almost pulled up right to it.”

It was 2 years and 26 days later, Gene May’s remains were found. Both brothers are now buried next to their mother at Trace Creek Cemetery in Graves County, Kentucky.

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