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Halifax man drowns Saturday at Berry Hill Resort

The body of 42-year-old Christopher Tucker of Chestnut Creek Road, Halifax was recovered early Sunday morning from a pond at The Berry Hill Resort in South Boston.

Divers with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recovered Tucker from the lily pad covered pond in about 12 feet of water less than 24 hours from the time the drowning was reported, according to Sgt. Jon Hart of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

A search for Tucker’s body got underway Saturday shortly after noon when the drowning was first reported to authorities.

Tucker was one of two men who were fishing in a small aluminum canoe when the canoe flipped over, Hart said.

According to persons at the scene, the canoe overturned after Tucker had caught a fish and jerked to the side to reel it in.

Tucker was fishing at the pond with two family members and a friend Saturday. 

The other man in the boat was able to make it to the shore after the canoe tipped over and told authorities he never saw Tucker resurface.

The victim reportedly was not wearing a lifejacket and couldn’t swim.

Other family members standing on the shore witnessed the accident. 

Sunday afternoon Tucker’s mother, Sarah Tucker, and Tucker’s sister, Venus Harris, said their son and brother had fished in the pond at Berry Hill a few times before and confirmed he did not know how to swim. 

Tucker had gone fishing Saturday with his brother, Rodney Tucker, his nephew, Jovanathon Tucker, and his friend, Greg Conner, his sister said.

Sgt. Hart said emergency personnel began to arrive on the scene around 12:30 p.m. when recovery efforts got underway. 

The South Boston Fire Department were the first responders to arrive on the scene, but Fire Chief Steve Phillips soon turned command over to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries when Hart arrived.

Hart said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries were leading the recovery effort “because it was a boating incident.”

Also responding to the scene were South Boston Police Department, Virginia State Police, Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders and members of the Halifax County Underwater Response Team. 

Divers from the Halifax County Underwater Response Team searched the murky pond all afternoon in an effort to recover Tucker’s body. 

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also brought in a sonar detector to search for the victim in the three-acre pond with depths measuring from eight to 12 feet in depth, according to emergency services personnel.

Friends and family watched helplessly for the recovery of their loved one’s body throughout Saturday afternoon and evening to no avail.

Divers were able to recover the victim’s fishing pole with a fish still dangling on the hook. 

The search came to a halt Saturday evening when the response team ran out of sunlight. 

The next morning by 7:30 a.m., divers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries resumed the search, and by 8:15 a.m. divers had located Tucker’s body in an area of the pond covered by lily pads that had been previously searched on Saturday, authorities said.  

Tucker’s grieving mother and sister said they were not at the scene Sunday morning when the body was recovered.

The family said Tucker’s body had been taken to the medical examiner’s office in Richmond for autopsy. 

Funeral arrangements with Jeffress Funeral Home are pending release of the body from the medical examiner’s office.

According to Berry Hill Resort General Manager Martha Borg, Tucker and those fishing with him did not have permission to fish in the pond Saturday.

The general manager said Tucker’s nephew “flagged her and her husband down” as they just happened to be riding by shortly after the accident occurred.

She said they were the first non-emergency personnel to arrive at the pond that is not visible from the Berry Hill Resort office and susceptible to trespassers.

“I have managed for five years, and I have never given anyone permission to fish,” Borg said of the pond at the resort.

No trespassing signs are posted on trees surrounding the pond; however, Borg said people often will pull the signs off the trees. 

Borg is currently working with authorities to determine what needs to be done to prevent trespassing at the pond area.

“Right now two 4 x 4 signs are being designed that will go in the ground soon to make it very clear no trespassing is allowed,” she added. 

“This was a very unfortunate incident, and we never want anything like this to happen again. We don’t want another tragedy at Berry Hill.”