Human remains recovered from Hales Bar Marina fire scene

Contributed photo by Haletown Volunteer Fire Department / Firefighters battled a blaze Jan. 27 that destroyed two boats at Hales Bar Marina and Resort and left searchers looking for a man who went missing in the fire. Search efforts continued Tuesday.
Contributed photo by Haletown Volunteer Fire Department / Firefighters battled a blaze Jan. 27 that destroyed two boats at Hales Bar Marina and Resort and left searchers looking for a man who went missing in the fire. Search efforts continued Tuesday.

Human remains likely to be those of a man who was living aboard one of two boats destroyed last week in a fire at Hales Bar Marina and Resort in Marion County were found Tuesday in the wreckage.

Stephen Dalton, 45, was the only person not accounted for in the fire, according to his family. He was living alone on his 58-foot, three-deck boat, Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

"This scene was a very difficult scene to work because of the environment," Burnett said later Tuesday in a news release posted on social media after the remains were located.

"Members of law enforcement and emergency services continue to have this family in their thoughts and prayers," the release said. "At this time the fire is still under investigation and the remains have been sent to the state medical examiner's office for positive identification and cause/manner of death."

The remains were found around 2:30 p.m. CST.

(READ MORE: $100,000 boat destroyed in Harrison Bay area fire)

After the fire the evening of Jan. 27, searchers scoured the waters around the boat but cold temperatures over the weekend forced emergency crews to halt the search until Monday, according to officials. Marion County EMA director Steve Lamb said Tuesday by phone that searchers had no luck Monday and resumed the search early Tuesday.

The burned vessel where Dalton lived sat submerged Tuesday in less than 10 feet of water and had to be lifted onto the shore for a thorough search, Burnett said Tuesday by phone.

Investigators treated the incident as a homicide but no indications of foul play have been found so far, the sheriff said.

(READ MORE: Firefighters extinguish blaze aboard million-dollar boat)

Sheriff's detectives determined on Jan. 27 that two large boats were consumed in the fire, authorities said in an earlier statement. The fire was reported at 9:20 p.m. on Jan. 27, according to a statement posted on the Haletown Volunteer Fire Department's Facebook page. Haletown firefighters found the burning boats at Dock G.

Because of the difficult elements involved with the recovery efforts, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office dive team, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency assisted local agencies for hours immediately following the fire conducting a search and recovery effort, authorities said.

(READ MORE: Six members of one family were among the eight victims of Alabama marina dock fire)

After the remains were found, Burnett thanked all the agencies and a couple of local businesses for their help in the search and recovery effort.

"At a time of such tragic loss, it speaks volumes of how all these agencies came together in attempts to bring [closure] to a grieving family," the release states.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

Upcoming Events