A Labor Day outing on Center Hill Lake turned tragic for a Murfreesboro family Monday as the body of 10 year old Elizabeth Grace Hathaway was recovered from the lake around 6:15 p.m. near their houseboat at Hidden Harbor Marina. The child, who was not wearing a life jacket, was the victim of an apparent drowning, although an autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.
Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that members of the Rutherford County Special Operations unit, using a sonar device, pinpointed the location of what they suspected was the body. Divers then went down and found the body of the child in about forty feet of water.
The body was near the back of the family's houseboat, which was docked at the marina. Witnesses reported having seen the child on the deck of the boat around 8:30 Monday morning, shortly before her disappearance.
After the family discovered her missing, they called 911 and the search effort began. Not knowing at the time whether the child had fallen into the lake or had wandered away from the houseboat and into the woods a search by ground and water was initiated and conducted throughout the day.
Searchers checked the woods and roads in the immediate area as well as vehicles parked in the vicinity. Any houseboats docked at the marina that were open or occupied were also searched.
DeKalb 911 placed automated reverse calls to residents in the area asking them to be on the look out for the child.
Among those taking part in the search either by ground or on the lake were members of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the DeKalb County Rescue Squad, the Sheriff's Department, DeKalb EMS, Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Charlie Parker, the DeKalb County Fire Department's Search and Rescue Team, the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers, the Putnam County Rescue Squad and Dive Team, and the Rutherford County Special Operations unit and divers.
Special thanks to DeKalb Market and other individuals who supplied food and water to the searchers and to Hidden Harbor Marina for their assistance.