HINSDALE, N.H. -- The body of a man who fell out of his kayak and into the Connecticut River on Thursday was recovered Friday at about 11:30 a.m.
According to New Hampshire Fish and Game Sgt. Dave Walsh, Thomas Howell, 57, of Hinsdale, was not wearing a life vest when he paddled out onto the river to enjoy the day.
Howell had been dropped off by his girlfriend on Thursday morning at 9:30 at the Prospect Street Boat Ramp in Hinsdale.
The woman returned at 12:30 to pick him up and saw him swimming alongside the kayak in the middle of the river, said Walsh. "She took her eyes off him and when she looked up he was completely gone," Walsh said.
A search was launched shortly after she called for emergency services. Searchers remained on the scene until about 6 p.m. on Thursday night and returned at 8 a.m. Friday.
Howell’s body was found about 40 yards from his last observed location, in about 15 feet of water, said Walsh.
The medical examiner ruled it a death by drowning, he said. Other than his girlfriend, Howell has no family in the area, said Walsh.
He said it appeared alcohol was a factor in Howell’s death. "There was some alcohol found in the kayak."
Howell’s body was found by the N.H. Fish and Game Law Enforcement Dive Team, a four-member team that scoured the bottom of the river. Where Howell’s body was found, said Walsh, the visibility was just two feet.
The divers were tethered to a boat, which dragged them while the boat operator used a GPS to track their progress as they conducted a grid search, he said.
Walsh said it’s required by law that every person in a boat has to have a wearable life vest with them, though they don’t have to wear it.
But, he added, "We’ve never recovered a body that was wearing a life vest."
He also reminded people to be aware of how much alcohol they have been drinking, especially in hot weather.
New Hampshire Fish and Game was assisted by the Brattleboro Fire Department, N.H. Marine Patrol, the Hinsdale Police and Fire departments and the Northfield, Mass., Fire Department.
Though the Brattleboro Fire Department’s dive team was to Hinsdale at 12:52 p.m. Thursday, they conducted only a 20-minute search before being released from the scene, said Lt. Chuck Keir, team commander.