CORNELIUS – It’s been 10 days since 33-year-old Matthew Bell fell off Luxury Yacht Charter’s “The Ragin’ Mistress” during one of its evening cruises near the mouth of Davidson Cove.
Cornelius Fire Chief Jim Barbee said his team is still conducting a scaled-back effort to find Bell’s body. A cadaver dog leaning right over the side of a boat with its nose near the edge of the water picked up “fringe scents” Sept. 9, he said.
“That means the dog can’t pick up anything for long,” he said. “Where he’d hit something, we’d put a sonar down, but nothing would come up to put divers back in the water yet.”
Shoreline and island searches conducted by the Cornelius Fire Department continued Sept. 11 to see if Bell’s body washed up along the clay sand.
“All the time, we can get on the lake, we’re still riding around, looking along the banks,” Sergeant Barry Rowell with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said. “We’re still actively searching as we can. But we don’t have anyone out there 24/7.”
At the spot where Bell was last seen by eyewitnesses aboard the boat, the water can be as deep as 100 feet and a chilly 50 degrees, Barbee said.
“Lake Norman’s nasty,” he added. “When you put divers in the water, they can’t see much farther than the length of their arm.”
Rowell said the wildlife resources commission is responsible for investigating how Bell fell off the boat and whether the charter boat was following all appropriate safety procedures.
Monte Velardi, a friend of Bell’s, told The Herald Weekly that Bell lived in Charlotte and worked for an engineering company that designs roadways.
"He was a captain for the day charter that day, but I heard he stayed on the night charter because his girlfriend was working on the boat that night as well, so he stayed to hang out," Velardi said.