UPDATE, SEPT. 2, 8:15 PM-- The Tennessee Highway Patrol identified the driver of the 1997 Mercury Mountaineer as Richie V. Weaver, 64, of Milledgeville. The passenger, whose body was still inside the vehicle, is identified as Ronnie K. Steele, 63, of Bethel Springs.
The THP said the driver's cause of death will be determined by autopsy, and that the crash remains under investigation.
SEPT. 2-- The bodies of two men were recovered in the Tennessee River at the Saltillo boat ramp this afternoon.
According to Hardin County Fire Chief Melvin Martin, one body was found inside the red sports utility vehicle by emergency rescue divers before it was towed out of the water.
The other was found shortly before. A boater hit the top of the vehicle only a couple feet beneath the surface, snagging the shirt of one of the victims on the boat and a piece of trim on the SUV.
Authorities have identified the victims, but the names have not been released.
Saltillo resident Eddie Gross, a retired law enforcement officer who worked for Shelby County, Tennessee, said he was launching his ski boat at the ramp when he felt it “hit something hard.” When he investigated, he found a body snagged by the shirt and yelled for someone nearby to call 911.
Martin said it is believed the vehicle had been in the water for less than 12 hours.
The Saltillo boat ramp has been the site of a number of fatalities over the years. Main Street, while marked with a bright yellow sign, “Danger, Tennessee River Ahead,” runs straight into the boat ramp and the river.
Authorities were alerted to the situation at about 12:30 p.m.
This is a developing story.