MORGAN COUNTY, Ind. — Four people are dead and one man is still missing after a boat capsized on the White River just north of Martinsville, according to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department. It happened at a popular boat landing near Shelton Rd. and St. Rd. 67 in Morgan County.
The Morgan County sheriff says they got a 911 call around 9:30 last night about a jon boat capsizing near the Three Rivers Public Point just off State Road 67. The boat had seven family members on board.
“The boat was attempting to ferry a large group of individuals across the river to another sandbar,” said DNR Captain Jet Quillen. “For some reason the boat capsized. All occupants, seven total, ended up in the water.”
Authorities say at least nine family members and friends jumped in the water from the riverbank in an attempt to save those who fell out of the boat. Arriving deputies and firefighters, along with family members, were able to pull four people out of the water, DNR officials said.
Medics transported 73-year-old Emilia Villegas, of Mexico, and 6-year-old Amisadai Elel Conchas to a local hospital where they later died.
“Unfortunately, life jackets were not being utilized,” Quillen said. “We’ve been informed that they were not swimmers. So any time you add that with a river, it’s dangerous.”
Rescue agencies began searching the water for three people who were still missing Monday night: 32-year-old Antonio Sanchez-Maldonado, 63-year-old Niseforo Sanchez, and 40-year-old Rigoberto Conchas.
One of the people missing went in the water to help pull others out.
The sheriff says a language barrier hampered the early rescue effort until an interpreter arrived at the scene.
“We needed to confirm is everybody out of the water, are there still victims in the water,” Quillen said. “So that language barrier definitely caused some obstacles.”
The DNR says they had several boats and search parties out looking overnight, but they were limited by the light and by the river which has shallow rocky areas and several deep pools.
The search was eventually suspended overnight due to darkness. Search crews continued the search Tuesday morning in an effort to locate the three missing family members.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday, DNR confirmed they had located the bodies of 63-year-old Niseforo Sanchez, of Mexico, and 40-year-old Rigoberto Conchas, of Indianapolis.
“They were located approximately a quarter mile south of where the boat capsized last night,” Quillen said.
The search for the last missing man continued into Tuesday as shaken family members received word that two more of their loved ones had been found deceased.
“Absolutely terrible,” said Morgan County Sheriff, Rich Myers. “The family we’ve been with since last night and this morning are just devastated, as are all the first responders here.”
Myers and DNR officials said the varying depths of the river made the search challenging.
“It makes search difficult, the shallow areas we can’t get boats across. Those deep areas, we can’t walk people across. So it makes searching difficult. Both of the shore lines are rocky and wood covered, you know it’s wooded,” DNR Lt. Angela Goldman said.
Of the three men that were missing overnight, Niseforo Sanchez, 63, of Mexico, (also in country on a Visa) and Rigoberto Conchas, 40, of Indianapolis were recovered this afternoon. The body of Antonio Sanchez-Maldonado, 32, of Indianapolis has yet to be located.
The investigation into what caused the boat to capsize is ongoing.