By CHERIL VERNON
Messenger Copy Editor
ANDERSON COUNTY – After the fifth day of searching Circle R Lake near Palestine Thursday, the family of 37-year-old Anderson County man Cody Lusk have found some closure.
Lusk’s body was found at 1:20 p.m. Thursday by the Palestine Fire Department dive team on the west end of the 44-acre Circle R Lake near the dam, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Game Warden Mike Hanson. Anderson County Justice of Peace James Sharp pronounced Lusk dead at the scene.
Lusk was reported missing by his wife at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, according to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. He was last seen at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14 when he went out on the lake in his flat-bottom boat to put out jug lines for fishing.
The breakthrough occurred Thursday after the TPWD Game Warden boats equipped with side-scan sonar units found Lusk’s boat a little before 1 p.m.
“We literally had been over the lake hundreds of times,” Hanson told the Messenger Friday. “This was the very first part of the lake that we looked at and we went back to that area a few times but we came up with nothing. But for some reason this time we hit that boat just right (with the side-sonar equipment). It didn’t look like a boat but it was.”
Once the 12-foot flat-bottom boat was located and identified as Lusk’s, the PFD dive team was sent in to find Lusk.
“We will probably never know for sure what happened. It has the appearance that maybe the boat took on water or he fell out of the boat and it took on water and the boat sank. He was probably 30 yards from his boat, going toward the bank near the dam,” Hanson said.
The cold temperatures in the water played a large role in the drowning, Hanson said.
“The temperatures in the water were around 55 degrees at the surface. As soon as you fall into water that cold it would make you gasp naturally. With the cold temperature it would have been easy for him to get hypothermia and depending on how long he was able to tread water that can lead to disorientation. There are a lot of factors that we will never know for sure,” Hanson said.
Hanson said he and the others associated with the search send their condolences to the family.
“Our hearts thoughts and prayers are with the family. It’s a terribly difficult situation,” Hanson said. “They were living there right on the lake and watched as it unfolded. In that situation, you want to get some closure. You want him to come home or to be brought home. It was heart-wrenching for them.”
Throughout the majority of the time the search party was on the lake, at least four Game Warden boats with the side-sonar units were utilized.
“On Thursday, we had four Game Warden boats. An individual associated with the 84 East Volunteer Fire Department brought out his personal boat that had really good sonar equipment as well,” Hanson said.
On Thursday before Lusk was found, officials were hoping to have a TPWD helicopter based out of Austin fly over the lake.
“I was trying to get a helicopter out all week. We had planned to have it there first thing Thursday morning, but then it was foggy. The helicopter was literally seven minutes away when I turned them around when we found (Lusk),” Hanson said. “Depending on the clarity of the water, you can sometimes see shapes from the helicopter, but we did receive a lot of rainfall the last few days.”
Earlier in the week, officials had found items thought to have come from Lusk’s boat, but at the time they weren’t certain if they belonged to Lusk.
“We had found a seat cover that we initially thought was a life jacket. We also found a small cooler and a fishing rod,” Hanson said.
Hanson thanked all of the law enforcement and volunteers for their support during the search.
“We had Game Wardens from six counties surrounding Anderson County come help us. The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Palestine Fire Department dive team and 84 East VFD were phenomenal,” Hanson said. “I also want to thank all the volunteers for bringing food and the volunteers who helped search by walking around the lake.”
Circle R Lake is located off U.S. 84 east of Palestine.
A candlelight vigil was held in Lusk’s honor Thursday night at Lusk’s church, Evangelistic Temple in Palestine.
Lusk is survived by his wife, Jessica, and a daughter under the age of 1. He served as a board member for the East Texas Tres Dias ministry.
Earlier in the week, East Teas Tres Dias former board member John Angerstein told the Messenger that Lusk was a dedicated family man and Christian, known for inspiring others through the ministry and being full of energy.
“More than 2,000 people have went through Tres Dias retreats, and every one of them knows Cody,” Angerstein said.
A GoFundMe page to help the family has been set up at the following address: gofundme.com/cody-lusk-family-fund