Boater missing, capsized boat found on James River

(WAVY/Deanna LeBlanc)

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Crews are searching for a 75-year-old man whose boat was found capsized on the James River Monday night.

William Johnson was last seen around 5:30 p.m. leaving out of Tyler’s Beach boat harbor in Isle of Wight County, according to the sheriff’s office. His boat was found capsized around 9:30 p.m., but he was not.

His friend, Payton Jones, was at Tyler’s Beach when Johnson was getting into the boat Monday. He may have been the last person to speak with him.

“I saw him when he went on out to the net. He was to the net when I was still in the truck looking,” he told

Jones said Johnson spent a lot of time on the water. “They’re getting six to seven pounds a catfish. He said he was getting a couple hundred pounds a day,” Jones said.

Jones and family members of the victim said Johnson usually goes out to check the fishing nets with another man. But on Monday night that person wasn’t feeling well, so Johnson went out on his own.

Photos: Search for missing boater continues

Multiple agencies — U. S. Coast Guard Helo Unit, the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, the Rushmere Volunteer Fire Department, the Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad, and the Smithfield Police Department — began a search for Johnson.

Rescue crews suspended the search Monday night, due to weather conditions. By the time the Coast Guard helicopter resumed Tuesday, officials told the boat had begun to sink and had drifted three miles. It took the Coast Guard some time to locate it again.

Tuesday afternoon, Virginia Marine Police confirmed the search had transitioned into a recovery mission.

By nightfall Tuesday, the search was once again called off. Crews were back on the water Wednesday, using side scan sonar on Virginia Marine Police boats. They did not find anything before calling the search off for the night at 4:30 p.m.

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