LONDON — Rescue workers will continue their search today for 32-year-old Clarence Holmes, a Berea Community School graduate who went missing Thursday after violent thunderstorms tossed him from his pontoon at Laurel Lake in London.
Pulaski County Rescue, which had been assisting in the search Saturday, had to return home, but the London-Laurel County Rescue squad will head back out onto the lake today, weather-permitting, an official said.
Friends and family of Holmes have been desperately searching the lake since his pontoon was found stranded on a sandy island near Marshes Branch.
A missing person flyer was placed on every vehicle’s windshield in the parking lot at Holly Bay Marina. Over a picture of Holmes, the flyer reads: "If seen please call 606-864-6542 or 606-523-2323."
Holmes' name had been placed on the Missing Persons Registry with a description of distinguishing markers, such as his tattoos, in case he had already been rescued and was admitted to a hospital unidentified, family members said.
Thursday afternoon, Clarence was helping friends on their house boat about a mile from Holly Bay Marina, where the family has docked their own house boat for seven years, said Charles Holmes, Clarence’s younger brother.
Before Thursday’s thunderstorms, Clarence left his friends’ houseboat around 3 p.m. and headed back to the marina to check on the water heater in his family’s boat. He had planned to return to his friends’ boat, his brother said, but after the storm subsided, they went in search of Clarence and found the abandoned pontoon.
Around five different rescue agencies from three counties set up a command post at the marina and had a fleet of boats searching the lake. They began by following the current from the location of the abandoned pontoon, said Arnold Holmes, Clarence’s father.
Search teams combed through the tangled water foliage near the dam, hoping clues might turn up there, said Clarence's BCS classmate Shawn Boor, who has been with the family for a large part of the search.
Some rescue boats were equipped with sonar technology. Pulaski County Rescue searched areas of the lake as deep as 315 feet, an official said.
Rescuers also have scoured the steep and wooded terrain surrounding the lake with two search and rescue dogs. Family members were told to continue searching on the lake to avoid confusing the dogs by throwing them off the scent, Arnold said.
Officials have ruled out foul play because Clarence’s duffel bag with his belongings and hand-held radio were untouched. Clarence was wearing only his white swim trunks with blue flowers and a wristwatch, Arnold said.
The family gathered on their houseboat at the marina and took frequent trips onto the lake using the pontoon Clarence was last seen driving.
“All we can do is wait and hope,” his father said.
Members of the tight-knit marina community, many of whom know Clarence, have been searching, too.
His brother Charles has been at the marina since Clarence went missing. He and his brother had spent many summers on Laurel Lake, Charles said.
“We knew this lake like the back of our hands,” said Charles, who added that his brother was an excellent swimmer.
Several Berea Community graduates and friends of the brothers went to the lake Saturday to aide in the search.
“I’d rather find him in any condition than not at all,” said Melissa (Marcum) Lykins, who knew Clarence from their school days.
“I’m still hopeful,” she said.
Lykins and four others, including two volunteers from the Berea United Methodist Church, searched the lake on a rented pontoon from 4 to 9 p.m.
The group notified other boaters of the missing person as they came across them on the lake. At one point during the search, they swam to shore and called out for Clarence on a path into the forest.
Workers at the marina said that all of the pontoons are currently rented out for Sunday (today), but would hold some jon boats for anyone who would like to help search for Clarence.
Contact Holly Bay Marina at 606-864-6542.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.