Search continues three weeks after boaters disappeared

Missing boaters Austin Savage (left) and Kyle Englehart.

SURRY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY)It’s been three weeks since two boaters disappeared in James City County during a winter storm, but the search has not let up. Crews are still searching for any signs of 29-year-old Kyle Englehart and 20-year-old Austin Savage.

10 On Your Side joined the search on the water Friday. Before heading out on the river with the search crew, Captain Milt Robinson with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries confirmed Kyle Englehart’s cell phone pinged at 11:38 p.m. January 3, and that was the last time anyone heard from Englehart and Austin Savage. Robinson says a cell phone was found and was turned in by a citizen and that phone is still being analyzed.

Kyle’s father, David Englehart, says he was told at a meeting with he Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the phone that was found was neither Kyle’s or Austin’s.

“We found their boat over here on this point of Hog Island,” Robinson said, looking at a huge aerial map of the area around the duck blind the two men went to on that stormy January night.

Related: Father mourns son who went missing on icy waters near Jamestown

10 On Your Side obtained a picture of Kyle’s boat, which is still in holding at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Many of their belongings were found in the hull of the boat. Capt. Robinson confirmed the men took the boat across the river in 50 mile per hour winds and two foot seas. 

Investigators believe the men were lost in the river, and believe bitter cold water has kept the bodies submerged.

The extensive search includes towfish sonar units. Each search group is assigned coordinates in the river, and they go back and forth with the sonar. The sonar unit is dropped to just above the river floor and is pulled along by the boat above. The sonar emits a sound pulse that hits what is on the bottom. Operating the sonar is Conservation Police Officer Sarah Druy. “We are coming up on an object and it could be a log or something right there where it is highlighted like it is a raised object,” she explained as the boat made its way across the river.

After looking at the sonar screen you realize what a tough job it is, to look at images 14-20 feet down that look like dots and determine whether they are important or not.

In 23 days they have searched 44 square miles on water and 10 miles of shoreline. At least three hits have forced divers into the water, but they have not located the bodies. Sgt. Brandon Woodruff said he is not surprised that they have not found anything yet. “No, there is no specific area where we know they went down, or exactly where they started to go missing,” Woodruff said.

At this point, there is no plan to stop the search.

Continue to stay with WAVY for updates.