Last victim of SUV plunge into Alabama's Weiss Lake is still missing

Last victim of SUV plunge into Alabama's Weiss Lake is still missing

January 11th, 2017 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Alabama State Troopers are out at first light Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, to search for the missing victim in the crash of an SUV at Leesburg Landing in Cherokee County, Ala. (William Thornton/AL.com via AP)

Photo by William Thornton

Fatal Alabama accident

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Weiss Lake

Weiss Lake

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The seventh occupant of an SUV that plunged into Weiss Lake in Cherokee County, Ala., has been missing now for almost a month.

Cherokee County officials said the body of Bobby Shore — believed to be the fifth fatality in the Dec. 13 crash in Leesburg, Ala., that left four dead and two others injured — is still unaccounted for.

"There's been no change. They still haven't found the body," Cherokee County Coroner Dr. Jeremy Deaton said on Tuesday.

Shore was among the three people who were thought to have made it out of the SUV after it ran off a boat ramp into 18 feet of water at Leesburg Landing into Weiss Lake on Dec. 13.

But authorities said he never made it to land. Kim Learned and Brittany Nicole Leslie, who also has been listed in some reports with the last name Hobson, scrambled out of the vehicle and survived.

"The search has been downgraded to periodic random searches by boat," Deaton said on Tuesday. He said a search probably would be conducted every other day or so.

Temperatures in Leesburg the day of the crash ranged between a low of 34 and high of 54, according to weather data compiler friendlyforecast.com. The Coosa River is 40 feet at its deepest on Weiss Lake, and most of the lake ranges between 20 and 40 feet deep, officials said.

Weiss Lake comprises three rivers — the Coosa, Chattooga and Little — and Weiss Dam, built by the Alabama Power Co. in 1961. Weiss Lake covers almost 31,000 acres, reaching east to the Georgia state line.

Officials said the area of the search remains confined to the channel between the eastern and western parts of the Weiss Lake reservoir and points downstream toward the Alabama Power Co. power plant that links that end of the lake back to the Coosa River. Shore disappeared less than 3 miles upstream of the power plant.

Deaton said the bottom of Weiss Lake is littered with old home foundations and other structures that were inundated when the river was dammed. Those old structures might have caught Shore's body, Deaton said.

The four who died in the crash were identified as Robert Hardin; Cheryl Hobson; her daughter, Christy Hobson; and Dale Keener, officials said. The survivors are Kim Learned and Brittney Nicole Leslie, who also has been listed in some reports with the last name Hobson.

In the days immediately after the crash, the women said Hardin might have purposely driven into the lake, but investigators so far have found no evidence to support that scenario, authorities in Cherokee County said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.


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