KSP, Family members searching for clues in fisherman's death


Reporter- Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist-Mason Watkins

Benton County, TN- Kentucky State Police and a Tennessee man's family are asking for the public's help in the fisherman's death investigation.

KSP investigators say 72-year-old Dan Couger, of Big Sandy, Tenn., launched his boat in  Sulpher Creek Friday June 28 at approximately 3:30 P.M. Couger's empty boat was found Saturday June 29 around noon on Kentucky Lake near Sugar Creek. Couger's body was recovered from the lake  near Sugar Creek on June 30. An initial autopsy showed he suffered a gunshot wound.

Police aren't saying whether they suspect foul play or if the death was intentional, or accidental. They simply need more information, but Couger's family says they think something or someone is to blame for his death.

Diane Rutherford is Couger's stepdaughter. She told WPSD her mom and Dan went fishing frequently, but usually together. She said they actually went fishing together the morning he disappeared. They came back in when it started getting hot because the fish weren't biting. Rutherford said her mom was going to take a nap and Couger did something out of the ordinary, he went back out on the lake alone. 

"He kind of took his hat off and waved as he was going out," Rutherford recalled neighbors seeing him.

When he didn't return and the sun went down, her mom called for help.

Neighbors were the first to arrive. "They came down and actually put their boats in and weren't successful at locating him." Search and rescue crews weren't either. 

"That was really hard. Especially for my mom," she said. 

Couger's boat was found more than 50 miles from Sulpher Creek near Sugar Creek. Rutherford said he would have never made that trip.

"It was not like him to get in the channel or cross the channel," she said. Plus, he wouldn't have done it so close to dark. 

"Considering he didn't have lights on his boat, that would have been way, way out of anything he would have ever done."

His injury, she said, is the hardest thing to explain. "He didn't carry a gun while he was out.," she said. "Maybe he went to help the wrong person."

Rutherford hung posters around the area in hopes someone might have seen her step-dad and can help lead police towards some clues.

"That's a big stretch of river that we're hoping someone in that area would have seen something and come forward,": she said. "Just help and get some peace for my mom. It's hard for all of us, but its very, very difficult for my mom."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Kentucky State Police Detective Steve Silfies at (270) 856-3721 or toll-free in Kentucky, at 1-800-222-5555. Callers may remain anonymous.  The public can also text-a-tip at 67283 and remain anonymous.