Fisherman drowns on Lay Lake

A man fishing on Lay Lake drowned Friday night after falling off a boat near the E.C. Gaston steam plant outside Wilsonville, according to officials from the Alabama Marine Police.

Forty-year-old Tracy Lynn Stagner of Shannon fell from a pontoon boat just after 8 p.m. Friday night while fishing with two other individuals, officials said.

His body was not recovered until Saturday evening, when he was pronounced dead by Shelby County coroner Doug Ballard.

Stagner had apparently tried to tie the boat to a wall near a discharge point outside the steam plant when he fell into the water.

He was not wearing a life jacket and had trouble holding on to the wall because he had a cast on his right hand, said Raymond Webster, Alabama Marine Police officer for Lay Lake.

Stagner’s companions reportedly tried to throw him a flotation device, but he was unable to secure it before being pulled beneath the surface.

The discharge point where the incident occurred is a popular fishing location and is not a restricted area.

However, Webster said the discharge produces a strong current, one that Stagner was unable to escape.

Even rescue divers at the scene had trouble maneuvering in the in the swift waters.

&uot;It was a very strong current,&uot; Webster said. &uot;The divers could not even get to the bottom because it was pretty swift.&uot;

Stagner was not in an area where state law requires that a personal flotation device be worn.

Alabama law requires a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD be worn by any person onboard a boat within 800 feet below a hydro-electric dam or navigational lock and dam; children under 8 years old onboard any boat, except in an enclosed cabin; any person onboard a personal watercraft; and any person being towed by a boat or personal watercraft.

The accident was the first boating-related fatality to occur in the Alabama Marine Police’s Birmingham district this year, officials said.

The Alabama Marine Police reported 14 boating-related fatalities on Alabama waterways last year, a record low attributed to recent efforts in boating-safety education.

Information on boating safety can be obtained by contacting the Alabama Marine Police at 1-800-272-7930 or through the internet at www.dcnr.state.al.us/MP.html