Milledgeville pastor dies in Lake Sinclair accident

lfabian@macon.comFebruary 25, 2014 

A Milledgeville pastor apparently drowned Monday afternoon while launching his new boat on Lake Sinclair.

Wendell Ray Thomas, 75, was found dead in his submerged 2003 Dodge Dakota four-door pickup shortly after 3 p.m. Monday near the boat ramp at Sinclair Marina, said Capt. Brad King of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re looking at it right now as just a tragic accident,” King said.

A surveillance camera recorded Thomas entering the parking lot, pulling the boat on a trailer at about 2:40 p.m.

About 20 minutes later, marina personnel spotted the top of his truck and thought it was debris in the water, King said.

It wasn’t until they got closer that they realized it was Thomas’ truck.

First-responders reported the truck doors were locked and the windows were up.

Firefighters had to break a window to get him out of the cab.

The founding pastor of Freedom Church had tied the boat to the ramp and apparently was pulling the truck up the steep incline when it slipped into the water, King said.

“We checked the truck and the brakes were operating properly and the tires rolled so it does not appear to have been a mechanical problem,” King said.

The truck was in low gear, which would be consistent with trying to climb the ramp, he said.

Thomas founded Freedom Church in 1985 in a dance hall on South Wayne Street before moving to a new sanctuary on Underwood Road the next year, according to the church website.

“His desire was 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,” according to the website.

Visitation will be held at Freedom Church from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday with the funeral at 2 p.m. Thursday at the church.

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