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James Downes, who loved spending time on the water, had been on life support since the collision with a bass boat.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
James Downes spent his life on the water, according to those who knew him.
The 39-year-old Christiansburg man died Sunday night from injuries he received in a June 30 boat wreck on Claytor Lake. He had been driving a pontoon boat that he had purchased less than a month earlier , his brother Gary Downes said.
James Downes' family said he died about 9 p.m. Sunday at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He had been on life support since the incident.
According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, a bass boat collided with a pontoon boat about 1:50 a.m. on June 30, about 200 yards upstream from the Boy Scouts of America aquatic base.
Conservation officer Troy Phillips has declined to identify the three occupants of the pontoon boat and the two occupants of the bass boat, but Downes' wife, Sabrina, has said her husband was driving the pontoon boat while she and her 13-year-old daughter Breeanna rode as passengers.
All five people were taken to the hospital, but four had been released from Carilion New River Valley Medical Center by July 1.
Phillips said Monday that no charges have been filed. He said DGIF is meeting and talking with the Pulaski County commonwealth's attorney's office.
The Downeses were returning from catfishing and were in a cove near the Boy Scouts base when they heard the sound of the bass boat's engine, Sabrina Downes has said. James Downes had slowed his boat to avoid debris when the other boat "came right up behind us and flew right up over top of us and took my husband down," Sabrina Downes said last week.
James Downes wasn't breathing when his wife and daughter found him in a pool of blood, Sabrina Downes said.
Sabrina Downes, 36, said she and her daughter escaped with minimal injuries.
"I don't understand how they could not have seen the pontoon boat," Sabrina Downes said last week. "The lights were on. We had a red cabin. I don't understand."
The couple had been married 17 years and were high school sweethearts, Sabrina Downes said. They have four children - Breeanna and three boys, ages 19, 17 and 10.
Gary Downes said his brother was born in Detroit, Mich., and quickly developed an affinity for the outdoors.
"Our back yard was a lake, and we could see Canada from there," said Gary Downes, 45, the oldest of three brothers. "When we were kids, me and him would always go out and go fishing. When we got older, my mom moved out to the country, and we had all that land out there. All we did was ride four-wheelers and motorcycles."
James Downes met and married his wife in Michigan, later moving to the New River Valley with his wife's family, Gary Downes said. Gary Downes later followed his younger brother to Virginia and now lives in Dublin.
James Downes worked at J & J Sales in Fairlawn before going on Social Security because of an asthma problem, Gary Downes said.
Though James Downes had owned used boats most of his life, Gary Downes said his brother purchased the brand-new pontoon after receiving an inheritance from their mother, who died in March.
"He was a good guy," Gary Downes said. "He worked hard, and he did what he could do for his family."
Staff writer Jordan Fifer contributed to this report.
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