Family identifies canoeist who died in Newport News lake

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Newport News Dive Team recovered a body Tuesday evening, after a canoeist fell into a residential lake.

Joseph HillDeputy Fire Chief Kenneth Lay with the NNFD said crews pulled the body of a 33-year-old man from Kerry Lake around 5:40 p.m. Family members were at the scene and identified the victim as Joseph Phillip Maynard Hill III.

On Wednesday, the medical examiner’s office said the cause of death was accidental drowning.

The lake is in a residential area in the northern part of the city, near the intersection of Kerry Lake Drive and Haystack Landing Road.

Emergency dispatchers got a 911 call about a canoe overturning there around 4 p.m. There were two men who fell out of the boat. One was helped to shore by a neighbor and taken to a local hospital. The other man, Hill, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rosalind Harris, Hill’s aunt, said the victim and his 18-year-old future brother-in-law were finishing up a tree cutting job at a vacant house on Kerry Lake Drive when they were in the canoe. A witness said one of the trees fell in the water, so the two men took the canoe out to get the tree. Then they took the canoe toward the center of the lake. Harris said that’s when the canoe tipped over.

“They ended up playing in a boat, getting in the boat and going for a ride on the lake here,” Harris said. “Joseph stood up on the boat, and the boat capsized.”

Dozens of Hill’s family members gathered on the street as they waited for updates Tuesday night. Many cried and prayed as they heard his body was recovered from the water. His father was present, and identified his son’s body. Hill’s fiancee was also at the scene.

“They have three children together and they were planning on getting married this year,” Hill said.

Newport News Police Department spokesman Lou Thurston said neither of the men were wearing flotation devices.

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