Names released of boaters found dead in Smith Mountain Lake

Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 9:02 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 at 1:47 PM EST
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PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The identities of two boaters found dead in Smith Mountain Lake have been released.

The men were identified as 21-year-old Landon Oakes and 20-year-old Zachary Travis, both from Danville.

The two men were reported missing Monday after their boat capsized.

The search and rescue mission began January 2 in the area of the Anthony Ford boat dock in Pittsylvania County. The rescue mission soon turned into a recovery effort.

According to Sgt. James Slaughter with Virginia Conservation Police, the boat was recovered Tuesday. Wednesday, the wet weather impacted recovery efforts, but did not stop them.

Virginia Conservation Police and other agencies, including Virginia State Police and volunteer fire departments, used search boats, divers, and sonar to look for the boaters throughout the four-day search.

VSP returned to the lake Thursday morning with additional equipment, including a specialized sonar used to help search aquatic terrains similar to Smith Mountain Lake. 10 to 15 divers were planned to be part of the search Thursday.

“Virginia State Police came down with specialized equipment -- their 360 sonar. Within a matter of probably an hour of searching, they confirmed that some of the areas of interest were -- in fact -- something that we needed to look further into. They conducted dives, which ultimately resulted in the recovery of two male individuals,” said Sgt. Slaughter.

Officials report the bodies were found not far from where the boat capsized Monday afternoon.

Authorities said specialized equipment, good weather, and assistance from volunteers were all factors that helped in Thursday’s search.

Virginia Conservation Police thank the volunteers, neighbors, and multiple agencies involved in the four-day recovery effort.

The incident remains an active investigation.