A beloved local pastor lost his life at Sinclair Marina Monday afternoon after an accident at Lake Sinclair.
The Baldwin County coroner pronounced Wendell Ray Thomas, 75, dead at 4:22 p.m.
Thomas’ Dodge pickup truck and attached boat trailer were submerged underwater until a local towing company and divers recovered the vehicle around 4 p.m. Monday.
Capt. Brad King of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office ruled out mechanical failure but isn’t yet sure what caused the event.
A Sinclair Marina witness confirmed that Thomas pulled in the marina at 2:45 p.m. to unload his boat.
King said the 75-year-old had launched the boat and was likely moving the truck when something went wrong.
A bystander alerted authorities when he noticed the boat floating with no driver.
The 911 call came in at 3:13 p.m.
Two local volunteer firefighters dove in to recover the driver within 10 minutes.
City Battalion Chief Greg Hood said he heard the distress call on the radio and wasn’t sure if anyone was in the truck or not.
“I got here and could see the top of the vehicle. I got permission and decided to go in there. Myself and another volunteer went in and were able to bust out the window.”
Hood said after getting Thomas from the truck to land EMS personnel were waiting for transport.
Investigators await the autopsy report, examination of the vehicle and marina video to identify the cause of death.
Thomas was known to many in Milledgeville for his founding and senior pastoral role at Freedom Church.
According to history on the church website, Brother Thomas desired to establish an independent church that would preach the Gospel without apology and challenge Christians to live a life of holiness, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
The church family was first established in 1985 on South Wayne Street in a former “dance hall” and moved to Underwood Road a year later where the congregation now flourishes.
He was married to Pat Thomas.