Lake where Starling went missing after boat crash difficult due to depth, trees

Published 4:05 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Nearly a week after a boat crash on Smith Lake, 26-year-old Kelsey Starling of Troy is still missing.

Her father Alton Starling, who retired after 22 years as Troy city clerk in April, gave a Facebook update on the status of the search Wednesday morning.

“Kelsey has not been located, and the recovery continues,” he posted. “There have been numerous teams involved in the search from across the country. Today, a team from Tallapoosa county is employing sonar with 360 degree capability, which should provide a panoramic view, increasing their chances of a successful recovery.

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“Let us pray she is found and provide safety to those involved in the recovery effort.”

Sgt. Chad Pate of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Marine Patrol Division said authorities and volunteers are doing their best to locate Starling, but that the process is particularly difficult at Smith Lake.

“This area has got some extremely deep spots,” Pate said. “It goes all the way to more than 200 feet in depth in spots. And when you get down to about 120 to 140 feet, there are actually trees that are down there, which can be a dangerous situation.”

A diver working with the search, who asked not to be named publicly, said the trees make typical search patterns used by divers impossible. The trees make typical passes with side scanning sonar impossible because of entanglement.

“It’s definitely a difficult search,” Pate said. “We’ve had sonar units here, cadaver dogs and multiple dive teams. We’re working as diligently as we can under the circumstances.”