Ratledge family, friends

Friends and family of Samantha Ratledge, a Murray State student who died in a boating accident on Labor Day weekend, are pictured in front of the Samantha Brooke, a boat which was purchased for CCFR through a large charitable donation raised in Samantha's honor.

MURRAY — The family of a Murray State University student who died during a boating accident on Kentucky Lake in September has made a sizable donation to the volunteer fire department that helped find their daughter’s missing body. 

The family of Samantha Brooke Ratledge, 22, of Scott City, Missouri, had asked members of Calloway County Fire-Rescue what might have made the search for their daughter take less time after she went overboard during a Labor Day weekend boating accident. Chief Tommy Morgan told family members that improved sonar equipment was one thing that could have expedited the search. 

The family then engaged in a series of fundraising efforts in the memory of their daughter to benefit CCFR. Through those efforts, the department was able to purchase new sonar equipment, as well as a new boat which has been named the Samantha Brooke. 

“When the accident happened on Sunday evening, it was dark, so they had to wait to do too much searching until the next day,” said Samantha’s father, David Ratledge, in a telephone interview. “They just didn’t have the equipment they needed to find out right away.” 

After learning what might have made the search go faster, the family decided that in lieu of flowers, the family would ask for donations to help CCFR get new equipment. Ratledge said the family wanted to do something that might ensure other families in the future might not have to wait as long to have their loved ones’ bodies returned. 

“We just took it from there; we like to help people and we appreciated all the volunteers for the work they were doing,” he said. “We know a lot of members of our community, and we know that it takes a lot to do stuff like this. So we thought, instead of people sending flowers, we would take donations instead.” 

Ratledge said the effort took off from there, with donations pouring in at a visitation that was held at Samantha’s high school. During that visitation, there was a box placed out front for donations. Ratledge said that evening, the family was able to raise around $5,900. 

He said a friend of his daughter also made a Gofundme page that was able to generate around $3,900 as well. Some T-shirts were also sold as well for the endeavor. 

“Some of the kids made up some T-shirts and we used Samantha’s handwriting,” he said. “She wrote a Bible verse on her track shoes and other athletic items like her softball cleats. Phillipians 4:13, which is ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ We just did that so kids could have something to remember her by.” 

Ratledge said their friends, family and community went crazy with the effort, and were able to hand over a large sum to CCFR. Following a donation from the Calloway County Fiscal Court as well, the grand total came to nearly $25,000. 

“We came down for a dinner for them at The Keg where she worked,” he said. “We wanted to thank the guys in CCFR personally and present them with all the funds that we had. It was right at $24,320, including the money they had raised as well.” 

With that, CCFR was able to buy new sonar equipment, as well as the new boat which will carry Samantha’s name, Ratledge said.

Morgan could not be reached for comment before deadline for this story.  

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