Deadly tragedy casts pall on tournament

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mark Owen

LYON COUNTY, Ky. - Contestants from two local fishing tournaments are in shock after word one of their own died on the lake today. Hundreds of people all across the country are competing in the FLW and Renegade fishing tournaments.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife said a boat with the bass fishing league regional tournament left from the Kuttawa boat ramp in Lyon County. The other boat with Kentucky classic renegade tournament left from Kentucky Dam Marina on Kentucky Lake.

Seconds before the collision, the drivers saw each other and tried to avoid crashing, but couldn't.

The boats crashed near Buzzard Rock. The driver of the BFL boat is from Mayfield, Kentucky.

He's okay but his passenger, a 41-year-old Mississippi man, was thrown from the boat and died.

Many didn't know what to do. Organizers said lots of people found it hard to go on because these fisherman share a common bond and are just like family.

The overall tone at the event changed, the joy and excitement that everyone shared quickly turned to sorrow.

Stephanie Pittman traveled hundreds of miles with her husband all the way from Mississippi for the tournament in Kuttawa. She said the excitement ended and her stomach turned sour when she overheard someone talking about a Mississippi man who died out on the water.

"Just praying to God, not to let it be him," she said.

For more than an hour, she didn't know if her husband was alive.

"It just brings reality in even fun and games, accidents can happen."

But she breathed a sigh of relief when Beau Choate with Lake Barkley tourism told her not to worry. Her husband was safe.

Beau said today's competition must go on but even with the prizes and awards, this year just isn't the same.

"It saddens the event dramatically," he said. "All of these guys are like brothers. When one gets injured, it touched all of their hearts."

He said many fisherman who saw this accident or heard about it were so upset, they docked their boats, packed up and went home.

As for the Pittmans, they're not thinking as much about fishing but just glad to have each other.

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