Officials suspending daily searches for Starling

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 20, 2019

Just over two weeks since Troy native Kelsey Starling went missing after a boat wreck on Smith Lake, sate authorities are indefinitely suspending the search for her remains.

Starling was a passenger in a 2012 Mastercraft wakeboard boat involved in a two-vessel crash at approximately 10 p.m. on the Fourth of July.

Since then both police and volunteer search teams have been searching the depths of Smith Lake daily looking for Starling while members of the local community have been praying for a miracle and peace for the Starling family.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Sgt. Chad Pate of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Marine Patrol Division said the search is not ending, but that it was time to discontinue daily searches, instead focusing on bringing in new teams with new equipment.

“We’re still going to have officers going through there several times throughout their shifts,” Pate said. “There are still some searches scheduled for the next week. We’ve also asked ALEA Aviation to fly the area and they should be able to do that next week. We’re also working on bringing in some other teams with new equipment ­– We’re at the point where we want to bring in new assets and not just doing the same stuff over and over again. This is definitely not the result we wanted, but we are at the point we need something different to do instead of doing the same thing.”

The search has been complicated as the lake reaches depths that are even beyond some professional divers’ capabilities. Further complicating the search is an underwater forest of trees more than 50 feet tall, putting any human divers at risk of entanglement and remotely operated vehicles unable to search as effectively.

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.

A gofundme account has been created to raise more money for the searches.