Officials ID body of man pulled from Elizabeth River in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH, Va.  (WAVY) — Crews found the body of a man who fell to the Elizabeth River from a sailboat Thursday night, officials say.

Ellen Bolen with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission said the man was identified as 73-year-old Ben Batson, of Suffolk. 

A Norfolk police dive team recovered Batson’s body around 1:15 a.m. on Friday by using sonar technology, according to Bolen.

Coast Guard officials says the man fell off the boat as it was entering the Ocean Yacht Marina, near the Union Bank & Trust Pavilion. The emergency call came in at 9:37 p.m. Thursday from the first block of Crawford Street.

His friends told the Coast Guard he never came back up. 

Portsmouth police spokesperson Misty Holley said Norfolk Fire-Rescue crews responded, but could not find the man’s body. Norfolk police responded with sonar equipment, because Portsmouth’s equipment was being repaired at the time.

“I am going to miss him. He was my heart,” said Adriene Upshur, his girlfriend of 25 years. “I am not going to be able to see him anymore.”

“He loved to go sailing,” said Channen Holland, who says her dad regularly sailed on Thursday for the city’s sunset concert series. “”He felt free out on the water – the wind in his hair. He just loved it.”

Upshur describes Batson as a skilled handyman who loved to cook and loved making people smile.

“He was fun to be with – going sailing, going to the movies, grilling out, dancing,” she said. “We always danced in the house.” 

Holland says her dad never wore a safety vest. She is hoping people who hear about this tragedy think twice before getting on the water without a safety vest. 

“It’s amazing how healthy he was and for him to die like this, it’s terrible,” she said. “I expected him to pass away, but not from doing something that he enjoyed and did for so long and did so well. It’s just shocking.”

VMRC is still investigating what happened in the moments before Batson went into the water. 

Stay with 10 On Your Side as we work to learn the cause of the accident. 

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