Search for Troy woman missing after boat wreck continues

Published 8:59 pm Monday, July 8, 2019

The friends and family of Kelsey Starling are still “praying for a miracle” four days after the 26-year-old went missing following a two-boat collision on Smith Lake on Independence Day.

Starling was a passenger in a 2012 Mastercraft wakeboard boat involved in a two-vessel crash at approximately 10 p.m. Thursday night

Sgt. Chad Pate of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Marine Patrol Division said there have been now new developments as of publishing time Monday.

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“The only new asset that is being used today is an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) that Christian Aid Ministries SAR unit brought down today,” Pate said. “ It is being used to get a better image in the deeper water.”

William Jackson Fite, 23, of Decatur, was booked into the Winston County jail Friday on a charge of Boating Under the Influence. Four other passengers on the Mastercraft were also injured and taken for medical treatment.

The area of the wreck is large and deep, officials said, making it difficult to search.

“It’s in deep water,” Arey Fire Chief James Rickett told the Northwest Alabamian in reference to the boat wreck. “It may be a few days before they find her.”  Rickett indicated a depth finder reported the area where the accident occurred was more than 230 feet deep.

AS the search continued Sunday, members of the community gathered at First Baptist Church in Troy to pray for Staring’s family and friends, as well as the families of the other people involved in the accident and emergency responders as they continue the search.

“Already there’s been an outpouring of love and support from visits to phone calls and texts,” said Chris Strube, who led the service. “Thank you all for coming tonight to pray.”

The people attending the service prayed specifically for Starling’s father, Alton Starling, who retired after 22 years as Troy city clerk in April, and Megan Starling, Kelsey’s younger sister.

“They have both had to endure more than anybody should have to endure,” Strube said.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, Kelsey moved to Homewood to work as a speech pathologist at Tuggle Elementary School.

Payton Rose, one of Kelsey’s best friends and one of the other passengers involved in the wreck, said Kelsey is “the light to everyone’s world.”

“She just brings so much happiness to everyone,” Rose said. “You can see from (the prayer service) attendance, she has so many friends and she means so much to so many people.”

Tom Grubbs, former Winston County EMA director, updated the Winston County Commission on the search Monday, reported the Northwest Alabamian.

“Grubbs indicated divers had gone as far as 70 feet and had divers who could dive 200 feet when Starling is located.

“A lot of work is going on.  It’s a sad situation,” Grubbs continued.