Man dies trying to rescue capsized boaters   

By Abby Morris
star staff
amorris@starhq.com

  A 74-year-old Virginia man lost his life Tuesday afternoon after he attempted to rescue two men whose boat had capsized in Watauga Lake in the area of Lakeshore Marina.
  According to officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, two men, whose names and ages were not released, had been operating a sailboat on Watauga Lake when the boat overturned on them and dumped them in the water and Keith Speer, 74, of Damascus, Va., attempted to rescue them. "It appears that a vessel was attempting to give aid to the overturned vessel when the operator of the second vessel (Speer) apparently fell overboard," said TWRA Wildlife Officer George Birdwell.
  Other boats which had been operating in the area saw the accident and were able to locate the two men who had been on the capsized sailboat and return them to the Marina as well as pull Speer from the water and transport him to the Marina as well, according to TWRA Wildlife Officer Dennis Ward. "Boaters brought them out of the water and to here (Lakeshore Marina) and then the Carter County Rescue Squad transported him to the hospital," Ward said of Speer.
  According to radio transmissions from the 911 Communications Center, one of the male subjects, later identified as Speer, was unresponsive when other boaters pulled him from the water. Birdwell confirmed that information. "He (Speer) was unconscious when they brought him in," Birdwell said.
  Speer was later pronounced dead at the Johnson City Medical Center and his family was notified of the accident, according to Ward.
  Birdwell stated that Speer had not been wearing a personal floatation device (lifejacket) at the time of the accident but that the two boaters he had been attempting to rescue had been wearing PFDs.
  The TWRA is still investigating the cause of both accidents.
  Members of the Carter County Rescue Squad and Hampton-Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the scene and assisted in the rescue.