Missing man’s fiancée: ‘I will never stop looking’

James Matthew Ragan (Source: WJHL)
James Matthew Ragan (Source: WJHL)

BRISTOL, TN (WJHL) – The family of a missing Bristol, Tenn. man is pleading for answers after 41-year-old James Matthew Ragan was reported missing following a fishing trip on South Holston Lake. Rescue crews are now adding more resources to help find Ragan.

Thursday marked a week since Ragan’s pregnant fiancee Jennifer Laughlin has heard from him.

“I watched him paddle out towards the bend and go under the bridge,” Laughlin said.

That was the last time Laughlin saw Ragan, he called her Thursday evening to tell her he had his camp set up and that he was going fishing.  Laughlin also said Ragan reminded her that he loved her and he’d call her later but she never heard from him.

Nearly eight days later and no sign of Ragan, crews and family members have found personal items like his pack of cigarettes, a scarf and his fishing poles.

Laughlin and his daughter Hannah Ragan said they’ve spent hours looking for Ragan on South Holston Lake, a lake that Ragan knows well.

“He’s traveled it, he use to fish with his dad,” Laughlin said.

Local rescue crews have spent three days searching but Laughlin wants more and she thinks crews should broaden their search.

“I can’t give up hope, if they can’t produce me a body then he’s out there,” Laughlin said.

With a search area that’s nearly 2,000 feet long, crews told us Thursday they’re readjusting their search plan and gathering more resources.

“We are extremely hopeful to make some type of recovery,” Jim Bean, Director of the Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency said.

Bean said the area has been searched by water, air and land and they took Wednesday and Thursday off to reevaluate.

“We’re sitting down and looking over the evidence that we’ve been presented, the maps, what we’ve searched, trying to figure out is there somewhere else that may lead us to search another area,” Bean said.

Despite the search, family members want to see more done and for crews to be out searching as much as possible as they hold out hope. Laughlin and Hannah Ragan also said they’d appreciate community support in the search efforts.

“I gotta keep going and I gotta keep praying,” Laughlin said.

Bean said local search teams will resume the search Friday morning.

Rescue squads east of Knoxville are all sending crews to Bristol, TN Saturday as the search for James Matthew Ragan continues.

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