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Police say man drowned while searching for safe in river


Staff Writer

Gaston County authorities have determined that a Lincolnton man, whose body was found in a local river’s water shoot near the Lincoln/Gaston County line earlier this month, died while searching for what he thought was a safe in the water.

“This appears to be a very unfortunate accident,” Gaston County Police Captain J.W. Human told the Times-News this week.

Capt. Human, head of the agency’s Criminal Investigations division, said Keith Boyte, 37, of 1069 Clemmay Trail, had actually been searching for a safe at the end of rope in the South Fork River when he drowned. Apparently, curiosity grew wild among Boyte and his friends after they spotted the rope days earlier.

“They believed there was something of value at the end,” Capt. Human said.

Lincoln County deputies said Boyte last told neighbors he was going to work on a rental property in Shelby last week.

On May 22, troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol tagged the man’s vehicle after following up on a tip from a caller who said that she had spotted a vacant work truck along U.S. 321 near the South Fork River bridge. At the time, Boyte had not been reported as a missing person.

“Mr. Boyte was not reported missing until the 23rd,” Capt. Human said, “so nothing would have come up when they ran the tag.”

Boyte was reported to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office as missing after a friend was unable to get him on the phone for two days straight, an archived Times-News article said. Boyte’s wife told deputies that she, too, hadn’t heard from her husband since May 21.

Local law enforcement and search and rescue teams scoured the South Fork River for several hours Thursday afternoon until a body, later identified as Boyte’s, was found.

Deputies said witnesses in the area spotted a man near the river Wednesday evening.

The body was later sent to a medical examiner in Mecklenburg County.

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