HUNT COUNTY, Texas – A father and his five-year-old son went duck hunting together for the first time Monday, and never came home.
Their bodies were recovered in Lake Tawakoni east of Plano, nearly 12 hours apart.
In a news conference, officials identified the father as Corey Saunders, 25, and his son, Nathan Saunders. According to officials, neither of them was wearing a life jacket at the time their bodies were recovered.
They took their boat out around 5:30 a.m. Monday, shortly before a storm with strong winds blew through the area, said Capt. Steve Stapleton, with the Texas Game Warden’s Office.
“Tawakoni is known for being a rough lake. Tawakoni is known for being a dangerous lake,” said Stapleton. “I’ve been here 17 years, and it’s a very unpredictable and unforgiving lake.”
The game warden’s office received a call about the missing father and son around nightfall Monday, when the two didn’t come home.
Crews began searching the lake with boats.
The family lab survived the boating accident. He was found on shore and began to bark, when crews reached the area of the accident.
“The dog started barking and alerting and running in the water and out of the water, which caused my game wardens to start looking even more intensely, and that’s when they found the child’s body,” said Stapleton.
The boy’s body was found around 11:30 p.m. Monday night. He was not wearing a life jacket when he was found, said Stapleton.
The search had to be called off for safety reasons. It resumed at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, and the boat was found shortly after, overturned on a stump.
A Texas DPS chopper and two game warden boats searched for the 25-year-old father for several hours. His body was located just before 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Family, friends and fellow duck hunters were at the scene.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but Stapleton said the weather, the small size of the boat, and its load likely played a role.
“Words don’t express the heartbreak that these situations bring, not only for the family, but my game wardens back there this is the worst thing they do,” said Stapleton.
An autopsy report confirmed Nathan died of an accidental drowning. Officials said autopsy results are pending on Corey's cause of death.
A Gofundme account has been created to help with funeral arrangements.