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Family speaks after local men die in Virginia boating accident

By Leland Pinder
Published On: Jun 10 2014 07:02:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2014 07:18:28 PM CDT
WINDSOR, BERTIE COUNTY -

Family members to of two Bertie County men say they are still in shock after the two drowned in a boating accident on the James River in Newport News, Virginia over the weekend.

Virgina Marine Police identified the two men as cousins, 52 year old William Smallwood, pictured, and 53 year old Phillip Smallwood.

"You hear stuff on news but you don't think it's going be your family member," said William's sister Renee Smallwood.

The two men were fishing on the James River near the Monitor Merrimack Tunnel when the engine on their boat stopped working and their boat began to sink. They ultimately drowned.

Virginia Marine Police say the boat they were riding was overloaded which led to the engine failure. In addition to the two cousins, there were three other passengers on board the 1975 Manatee vessel. There were also multiple coolers.

The accident happened just before 4:30 Sunday afternoon. Despite the best efforts of Newport News police officers, firemen, and bystanders on a nearby pier, only three of the five on board were able to be rescued. The bodies of the two cousins were later pulled from water near a yacht basin in the area.

"I'm still in disbelief, it hasn't hit me yet," said Renee Smallwood.

Family say the two men were very well known in Windsor in Bertie County. They were both born and raised there. They say Phillip had moved to Virginia years ago but William had just moved there a few months ago. His sister said he was looking for better career opportunities and a fresh start.

Marine police have impounded the boat and are now examining the engine for mechanical issues that may have contributed to the accident. Family members say they're leaning on one another and dealing as best they can.

"I'm just taking it day by day," said Renee Smallwood.

The surviving passengers on the boat were treated at a Norfolk hospital and released with minor injuries according to Virginia Marine Police. Family say they were friends of the two men. Family say there was also a dog on board the boat that helped pull one of those passengers to shore.