By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer
On July 5, Clarence Wayne Holmes, 32, disappeared while boating on Laurel River Lake and has yet to be found.
Since then, rescuers have been scouring the lake trying to find him in an effort that has shifted from a rescue to a recovery mission.
Friday has been set as the day when officials will determine whether or not to continue the search, a possibility that frustrates Clarence Holmes’ family.
A public letter from Holmes’ cousin, Angela Clark, said, “We are not going to go away and we will fight to the end to bring Clarence home. Lake Laurel has claimed seven other victims that have never been recovered and we refuse to let Clarence be the eight(h).”
The family has started taking donations to help continue to fund the search.
According to Clarence Holmes’ cousin, Dena Newcomb, money is coming in from friends, donations left in a bucket on the counter at the Holly Bay dock, as well as from other boaters.
The family has also expressed frustration about how information has been relayed to them by officials leading the search.
“It’s like we’re not getting the information we need from them,” Clarence Holmes’ father, Arnold Holmes said. “They try to tell us, the best they can but we’re not, I guess, well educated people.”
“We don’t speak their lingo,” added Newcomb. “When they talk about thermo-climes, stuff like that. There’s times when they go out and come back and leave and we don’t know that they’ve left yet. We walk up to the marina and they’re gone”
She added, “So, they’re not really saying, ‘We’re leaving tonight, this is what we’ll do tomorrow.’ We don’t get any of that information.”
Clark’s letter says the family wants to know the “game plan each day” and encourages Laurel County officials to ask for help if they have reached the limits of their capabilities.
“The family feels like this is being treated routine, like it is just a job; but a man, a human being is missing in a lake! This case is anything but routine to Clarence’s friends and family,” Clark wrote.
London Rescue Squad Chief Larry Vanhook said, “When we’re on the water working we don’t go out and tell them what we are doing.”
Vanhook also said he has actively sought help from other counties.
“We ask for help just about every day. We have search and rescue dogs and Pulaski (County)water rescue there with its sonar equipment.”
Other county groups called to offer their help and, when they were told about the Pulaski equipment and the Boone County group, they said they couldn’t do more than that.
The arrangements to have Boone County assist in the recovery began Monday. Vanhook said Boone County Rescue is expected to be at the lake beginning at the end of the week.
Boone leader Dale Apple has been working on his group’s search plan and Vanhook said they will reconstruct the events that led to Clarence Holmes’ disappearance.
Some of those events include Clarence Holmes’ efforts to help another boater fix a boat propeller as a storm approached. Clarence Holmes left to go to the marina.
“He told them that he would be right back,” his father said.
The boat was later found idling in neutral at a small island near Marsh Branch.
“It was sideways like it was an abandoned boat, bobbing in the water just off shore,” Arnold Holmes said. “And all of his stuff was in there.”
Arnold Holmes said his son was a strong swimmer.
“It’s like he just disappeared,” he added. “We’ve combed this area with a fine-tooth comb.”
When told that the Boone County rescue group is scheduled to assist in the search, Arnold Holmes and Newcomb were pleased.
“Boone County is the one we want,” Arnold Holmes said, adding that county’s sonar will be able to detect objects between the trees on the bottom of the lake.
While Boone Rescue is in the area, Vanhook said it is important that other boaters give them room to work.
“People want to come to the area with boats, they can be in the way,” Vanhook said.
Boone’s sonar equipment is operated after dark in a way to get better photos of the bottom of the lake and its surroundings, Vanhook said.
“They do underwater stuff, they have two or three boats and we can’t have anything in their way,” he explained.
That group will be on the lake Thursday and Friday.
On Monday, Bluegrass Water Rescue called and was working at the lake by late that day with four people and two boats.
Vanhook said once the Bluegrass rescue group and the Boone County rescue group have finished by the end of the week, a decision will be made regarding whether or not the search should continue.
Newcomb said her family wasn’t aware about the decision to be made Friday.
“But I hope we don’t have to wait that long,” she added.
Clarence Holmes, was an avid boater and his father said he was down at the lake every weekend.
“He loved this place so much.”
Will decide whether to continue looking for missing man
By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer
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