SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. -- The man killed in a boating accident Saturday on Lake Anna in Spotsylvania County is being credited by friends for saving lives by sacrificing his own.
The body of Charles William Bowen, 53, of Orange, Virginia, was recovered several hours after the Saturday evening incident on the water where two children on inner-tubes were hurt.
“They had just left the dock and were going home real quick, wanted to get a few things from the house and then they were going to come back and watch the fireworks,” said Bowen’s friend Mark Breeden.
Breeden said his friend of 27 years was in the boat with a young man named Robert who was like a son to him, when he noticed a boat in his path.
"Two [people] in a boat made [an] evasive move to avoid another boat heading in their direction, ejecting both occupants from the boat," a preliminary investigative report from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries read. "The boat then proceeded to run over the line of two minors on tubes that were being towed by a separate boat."
“He had to make a decision,” said Breeden. “He said hold on Robert and he turned the boat as hard as he could to avoid any kind of accident.”
The children on the tubes were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, the report indicated. Robert also suffered a non-life threatening injury.
“Chuck did everything he could to save those kids on that tube. I don’t think they are here today if it’s not for Chuck, I think he sacrificed his own life,” said Breeden.
Chuck was pulled from the lake several hours after the accident while his sons and Breeden painfully looked on.
“Everyone was very upset his sons would not leave the lake. They wouldn’t go anywhere until they found their dad,” said Breeden.
“There were probably 50 people at the house when the boys finally did come home,” he added. “Like I told his boys, we didn’t lose Chuck, we still have him in our heart and in our minds. All the memories he gave us will live on forever.”
Breeden says Saturday was the first time this season Bowen was able to get his boat on the water after he made repairs to it. Breeden and his family were invited to join Bowen for fireworks on the water.
“Very good chance I could have easily been on that boat. It may have been different, I like to talk, so I may have held him up,” said Breeden. “I’d like to think he’d still be here if I was on that boat.”
Friends say Bowen has lived near Lake Anna for 18 years with his three sons.
“His sons were Kevin, Matt and James and Robert was like a son to him,” said Breeden. “What Chuck did was for his boys, it wasn’t for him. He worked so hard to set his sons up,” he said.
His sons say he had the biggest heart of anyone they knew and he was dedicated to his work as a Matco tools distributor after a career as a master auto technician.
“He loved motors, working on stuff and he loved selling tools,” said Breeden.
Breeden says he was always someone you could count and led by example.
“He was a great leader of men. He meant a lot to me he was like a brother, great friend,” said Breeden. Whenever you had a problem Chuck was the first guy there to help… just a huge loss for everyone,” he said.
Breeden said his friend would not want his loved ones to grieve.
“He said if I die, don’t you put me in a box, I want to be cremated and throw my ashes over the ocean and you have a big party. So, Chuck would want us to all be partying and celebrating his life.” said Breeden.
In an 11-minute Facebook Live video recorded shortly after the crash, a witness reported the boat was "spinning out of control" with no one inside.
"I saw this yellow boat screaming [past me at] about 70 plus miles an hour, so me being a jet skier, I like to chase these fast boats and jump the waves, but I couldn't catch it no matter how fast I went," witness Justin Armel said. "Next thing you know, I saw the boat go up in the air [and] come down."
Armel, 40, of Winchester, said he did not see the actual crash, just the moments before and after.
"The people [in the boat] were having a great time as they sped by us," he said. "I just thought it was going so fast [and] they hit a wake and flew out. Then the boat just started spinning out of control in circles."
Bowen’s boys say their father’s boat did not even reach speeds of 70 miles an hour.
“He grew up on the water, knew the lake very well knew how to drive a boat very well,” said Breeden.
Investigators said alcohol was involved in the incident and charges in this case were pending.
This is a developing story. Witnesses can email news tips and photos here.