Divers in 2014 prepare to enter the water in a training exercise. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

It did not look good yesterday for a missing man, a member of the White Rock Boat Club, Conrad Callicoatte of East Dallas, whose boat capsized on White Rock Lake.

Now Dallas Police have confirmed the worst. After The Dallas Park and Recreation Department asked the public this morning to stay off the water as searchers used advanced SONAR equipment that can help detect drowning victims in lakes, divers were able to recover the 80-year-old’s body.

Yesterday, some misinformation circulated, and the commodore of the White Rock Boat Club sent a letter to many members of White Rock’s sailing community, clarifying the tragic events.

According to the letter, Callicoatte — a highly experienced captain for some 40 years — and a fellow sailor were in gusty conditions when their boat overturned. At first, both surfaced unharmed, and members of the Corinthian Sailing Club came to help the duo right the boat. Callicoatte reportedly was treading water and speaking to the others, awaiting a chase boat that would pick him up, when he stopped moving and went under.

Members of both sailing clubs gathered and supported one another as the dive team searched.

As we understand from a past story about the dive team’s job, finding anything inside White Rock Lake’s inky blackness, glut of debris and limb-sucking sludge, makes the divers’ job incredibly difficult. (When a 24-year-old in 2014 intentionally plunged into the relatively shallow water under the Mockingbird bridge, several bystanders saw exactly where he went in and unsuccessfully tried to rescue him. Even with the aid of side scan sonar equipment, several dive-team members searched some 16 hours before locating the body.)

SONAR equipment used by divers in dark waters reveal shapes that could be a human. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Now they grieve together with Callicoatte‘s family.

Today’s awfulness is one of those periodic reminders for lovers of water activities the importance of personal floatation devices.

Had Callicoatte been wearing one, he might be alive (we cannot be sure whether he died from drowning or a heart attack or other sudden affliction until his body is examined). We’ve explored this issue before, and sadly we will again. People — especially more experienced kayakers, paddlers, sailors and such — do not think twice before hitting White Rock Lake sans life vest. Sure, you put them on your kids and newbies, but several of the drownings I have reported involve experienced, veteran swimmers who see no use for the PFD, until something unexpected happens. Both boat clubs have reminded their members to always wear PFDs on the water.