CHARLESTOWN, N.H. (AP) – A rescue boat crew made several unsuccessful attempts to free an injured woman as their boat capsized in the Connecticut River, trapping her beneath the overturned boat, where she drowned, authorities said.

Virginia Yates, 64, of Rockingham, Vt., was stepping on a dock when she slipped Tuesday, injured her head and fell into the river, said Sgt. Craig Morrocco of the Fish and Game Department.

A fire and rescue crew from Cornish brought Yates onto their brand new, flat-bottomed airboat and strapped her onto a backboard. But as the boat headed to a waiting ambulance at a landing, it started taking on water and capsized, Morrocco said Tuesday.

“She was strapped to the backboard and she was strapped into a gurney,” Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway said, a standard precautionary measure. Officials said Wednesday that after several attempts to save Yates the boat sank. Crew members were rescued by a passing boat and Yates’ body was recovered an hour later.

The boat remained stuck in the mud at the bottom of the river Wednesday. Divers planned to attempt to dislodge it Thursday.

Officials said Yates was conscious when the rescue boat arrived at the dock.

Five people were on board the boat when it sank. Officials say the cause and circumstances surrounding the sinking of the boat are under investigation.

Yates’ friends said they don’t know why she needed to be strapped in.

“Why would you take a 64-year-old lady that’s got a little bump on the head and a strained ankle and strap her into a situation where if there was an accident, she couldn’t get out?” said her friend, Tracy Snide.

Edgar Emerson, of Bellows Falls, Vt., said he and Yates were on their way to visit friends when she slipped getting out of his pontoon boat and onto a dock on the Vermont side of the river.

She had cuts and bruises on her head and arms and might have broken her ankle, so he made sure she was seated on the shore before he boated to Hoyt’s Landing in Springfield, Vt., to find a cell phone and call friends. Others persuaded him to call 911, he said.

“She didn’t want to go in the ambulance, she didn’t want to be rescued,” Emerson told the Rutland Herald.

Shirley Latterell, who was fishing at the landing, said she convinced Emerson to let her call 911 because she thought his friend might go into shock. She said the Cornish rescue boat went down river to get Yates, but on the way back to Hoyt’s Landing it tipped over and sank.

“I dialed 911 and everything went haywire after that,” Latterell said.


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