Rescue crews from Carter and Washington counties scoured the Watauga River on Thursday evening and Friday morning searching for a man who was believed to have gone missing on the river.
At approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday, Deputy Paul Morell of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department said officers responded to 235 S. Third St. in Watauga in reference to a missing person. Corey Vaughn, 26, of 329 Allegheny Road, Fall Branch, told Morell he and his friend, John Murray, had been fishing on the Watauga River. He said he lost sight of Murray and could not locate him.
Vaughn said he walked a short distance down the river in the last direction he observed Murray. He then walked back to his vehicle and drove to another location further down the river. Vaughn then went to 235 S. Third Street and attempted to walk out into the middle of the river to gain a better view downstream. Vaughn said the current was too strong, so he went to the other side of the river.
The man said he was on the other side of the river for about two hours before someone called for help. The Johnson City Police Department then located Vaughn and drove him back to his vehicle, where he met with Carter County deputies.
Vaughn described Murray as a white male in his early 30s, approximately 6 foot tall, with medium build, brown hair and a goatee. He was wearing a white T-shirt, cut-off jean shorts and flip-flop shoes.
Multiple rescue crews from Carter County, Washington County, Johnson City and Watauga assisted in searching for the missing man. They spent several hours on Thursday evening. At one point during the search, Deputy Director Anthony Roberts of the Carter County Rescue Squad said crews located a man matching the description of the missing man sitting on the side of the river. When the crews tried to reach the man, Roberts said the individual ran.
Roberts and Morell noted that Vaughn changed his story several times about what had happened. Roberts said crews searched a large portion of the river from the Highway 400 bridge to the area around S. Third Street.
Morell said he learned Vaughn was wanted on a warrant for violation of probation out of Sullivan County. Vaughn was arrested and handed over to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department.
Roberts said Carter and Washington County rescue crews returned to the area on Friday morning, but were unable to locate the missing man. In addition, Washington County and Johnson City officials searched downstream toward Boone Lake. Crews said they were unsure whether the missing person was in the river or left the area.