Community donations funding continued search for Starling

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The search for 26-year-old Troy Native Kelsey Starling continues, thanks in large part to contributions from family, friends and the local community.

Kelsey’s father, former city clerk Alton Starling, posted on Facebook Saturday to clarify that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has not stopped searching for Kelsey. ALEA announced Friday that it was suspending daily searches indefinitely.

“They will continue to search for Kelsey, just not as actively as they have been over the last two weeks,” Starling posted. “They will not have as many people doing the search, divers aren’t on standby, and they don’t have a staging area adjacent to the location of the incident. They will fly the banks of the lake either daily or every other day. They will run sonar when they can. They will find her.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A gofundme page was also created Saturday to cover the expenses of the Smith Lake Task Force to pay for the expenses of search and recovery teams.

“This is for the 21-plus rescue and recovery teams expenses in the tri-County area in this effort,” the page description states. “This money goes directly to the recovery expenses.”

The account has already surpassed the stated goal of $20,000, with 441 donors raising more than $29,000 by Monday evening. Donations of all monetary amounts are welcome, as well as prayers.

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. 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.

According to Alton Starling’s post, the Houston County recovery team brought a different technology to the locations Monday and today and ALEA is present with them, as well as the Winston County EMA director. A team of four qualified divers are using handheld sonar with heads-up display for the divers that is also sending the information up to the boat.

Starling also thanked everyone who has supported the family and friends through this difficult time.

“I hope and pray the next post I make is they have found her so we can get closure,” Starling posted. “It has been a difficult time for all of us. It does lift us up to see all the blue ribbons! Thanks for everyone’s support.”

Members of the community have been placing blue ribbons on the doors of homes and businesses to show support for the family and rescue teams during the search.

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.