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Man’s body found in Lake Norman

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

The body of a 33-year-old man who fell off a charter boat in Lake Norman on Sept. 1 was discovered by a boater and recovered by Cornelius firefighters over the weekend, an official said Sunday.

Sgt. Barry Rowell of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said the body of Matthew Bell was found Saturday afternoon near Marker D4, off Shearwater Point Drive in Cornelius, which is where Bell was believed to have fallen in the water.

Bell, of Charlotte, was among 103 passengers and six crew members aboard the Ragin’ Mistress charter board, officials with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in Raleigh have said.

Although he was employed by the Ragin’ Mistress, he was not on duty when he fell off the boat, said Rowell.

Rowell said the case is still under investigation, and an autopsy will be performed.

“Hopefully from that, we can determine what happened,” he said.

Officials searched the lake for days after Bell disappeared, even using sonar to probe under the water, but they could find no trace of Bell and ended the search on Sept. 9.

Rowell said he didn’t know why it took Bell’s body so long to resurface. He said the body may have been caught under something but added that he’s waiting for the autopsy results.

“We’ve got to wait to see what results they give us,” he said.

The Ragin’ Mistress is one of five charter boats with a permit from the Lake Norman Marine Commission to operate on Lake Norman. The boat’s operator, Cornelius-based Luxury Yacht Charters, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

The death was the second involving a charter boat in the lake’s 50 years, said Ron Shoultz, executive director of the Marine Commission, which established rules governing charters. The elected boards of commissioners of Iredell, Mecklenburg, Catawba and Lincoln counties appoint members of the Marine Commission.

Nate Coppick, 19, who worked at Westport Marina in Denver, was killed in an explosion on June 10, 2008, while refueling Championship Yacht Charters’ 80-foot Championship II boat. Suits against the marina owner and boat owner Cliff Champion were settled out of court.

Arriero: 704-358-5945
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