Watauga Lake claims life of former Unaka student

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   A swim with friends at Watauga Lake took a tragic turn Sunday afternoon for a former Unaka High School basketball player.
   According to James Vaughn of Tennessee Valley Authority Police and Carter County Sheriff John Henson, Ashley Lynn Younce Price, 19, 285 Roosevelt Avenue, was swimming with friends shortly before 3 p.m. at Watauga Point when she went under and failed to surface.
   Members of the sheriff's department, TVA Police, Carter County Rescue Squad, U.S. Forest Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency responded.
   According to Sheriff Henson, Price was swimming with Angela Price and Robert and Casey Mathes of Hampton when the incident occurred.
   "They were going to swim the channel" near the point, Henson said. "They got about halfway across and decided they couldn't make it and started back. She went down about 20 to 30 feet from the bank in 10 to 12 feet of water," the sheriff said.
   Members of the rescue squad and the squad's High Angle Rescue Team set up dragging operations and the body was recovered around 4:35 p.m., according to TVA's Vaughn.
   The body has been sent to Quillen-Dishner College of Medicine for autopsy, according to Sheriff Henson. TVA Police is investigating the incident, assisted by the sheriff's department.
   Don Parkey, a former coach at Unaka High School, said Price was a close friend of the family.
   "I coached her two years up at the high school. She was a good girl, a good kid. She worked hard and she always did what I told her," Parkey said.
   Price played guard for Unaka during her junior and senior years after transferring from Hampton High School, where she also played guard on the girls basketball team.
   "I've known Ashley a long time," Parkey said. "I remember when she played over at Keenburg. I think she's played basketball since she was probably in about the fourth grade and played all through high school.
   "It's a tragedy," he said. "Young people think the older people are the ones that are going to die. But it seems just like every year we lose somebody like that," he said.
   Doug Phillips, coach at Hampton High School, said Price was a good athlete. "She had a lot of ability. She was a conscientious student and worked hard."
   Price is the daughter of Rick and Deborah Younce of Elizabethton and was married to Johnny Lee Price, also of Elizabethton.