Donation to SCDNR

The family of the late Mitchell Don Gibson, a commercial fisherman who was lost on Lake Russell in March 2016, donated three Lowrance digital side-scanning imaging units to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to help the agency search for drowning victims

The family of the late Mitchell Don Gibson, a commercial fisherman who was lost on Lake Russell in March 2016, displays the three Lowrance digital side-scanning imaging units that were donated to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Region One Law Enforcement to help officers search for drowning victims.

A plaque on one of the Lowrance units says: "Dedicated in memory of a Fisherman, Mitchell Don Gibson, to SCDNR Region 1. Thank you for the dedication and compassion that was shown to the family of a fisherman who traded in his net for a set of gold wings and a fishing pole."

The equipment donated to SCDNR by the Gibson family is a great improvement over the equipment previously used by the state agency. The family hopes it will help SCDNR in future efforts to locate drowning victims, which will in turn make it easier on the families of the victims.

"Our intention is that no other family has to wait seven and a half months to bring their loved one home," said Jenny Pierce, a spokesperson for the family.

To help other families who are going through a similar experience, the Gibson family has started the Upstate South Carolina Crime Victims' Advocates organization. The Upstate South Carolina Crime Victims' Advocates was created by Mitchell's sister, Kelly Johnson, and Jenny Pierce to help victims understand tools available to them during a time of tragedy or need. This new organization can be found on Facebook.

*Upstate SC Crime Victims is the sister organization for Mitchell's Light

New organization hopes to help family of loves ones missing in water


By : Nicole Ford-WSPA News Channel 7

An Upstate family is paying tribute to a lost loved one. Mitchell Gibson’s family spent more than seven months and $20,000 to recover his body after he went missing at Lake Russell last fall.

The problem is many agencies don’t have the resources needed to sustain extensive search and rescue efforts in the water. So Gibson’s family is now trying to bridge the gap between what state agencies can provide and what the family of a lost loved one needs.

Across the country, hundreds of people go missing in the water each year, but not all are found quickly. Right now a 21 year old kayaker is still missing in Michigan almost a year later and here at Lake Hartwell Kip Burrell is still missing after a boating accident in July.

What happens now is the question for many? When time passes and state agencies have pulled back resources, what do you do? That’s where Mitchell Gibson’s family comes in. His sister Kelly Johnson said they spent the time finding other options whether its charities or personal divers for families to locate their loved ones. So now they’ve started Mitchell’s Light to provide these resources and help bring other families the closure they got when they found Mitchell.

“Are you trained to use sonar equipment to find a body? Is that what you are trained for? Are you trained to have the right resource at the right time for the right situation? If not, I think that’s where we can help,” Johnson said.

The organization’s first goal is to raise funds to buy special sonar equipment so they can help on the water. Then offer educational training for first responders on this type of equipment, and the first educational class will happen in October. If you want to learn more about Mitchell’s Light or donate to their cause click here.

Copy of Mitchell's Light-Foundation to help drowning victims and their families

By: Shale Remien, Fox Carolina News

ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Crews are searching Lake Hartwell for a missing boater. The violent storm that whipped through Anderson County Saturday tossed a couple from their boat. The woman, Stacey Burrell was rescued and pulled to safety by people on a passing boat. However her husband, Kip Burrell has not been found.

One Upstate woman, Kelly Johnson, lost her own brother to drowning and is starting a foundation to help families like the Burrell's 

"In the movies everyone is found the same day, what I think people don't understand here is when you're in the water, it has to be a very thorough search. It has to be a slow search, and you have to have the ability when you're done to call that area 'clear,'" Johnson said. 

Kelly Johnson knows what it's like to be the one waiting at the end of that boat ramp. Looking for any news, any type of closure. Now, she's hoping to be a "go to" resource for Upstate families, providing equipment, time and information.  

 "We need the resources in our state, we have a lot of water. DNR is great,  but people don't see what they do and the funding is not always there because it's not like a sheriff's deputy that you see on the road."

She lost her brother, fisherman Mitchell Gibson, on Lake Russell just over a year ago and since has reached out to families like Burrell's when drownings happen.  "We want to be that agency, or entity, or those people, that can come out when the family says "Can you come out today?"

Her goal is to have accessible sonar equipment and the team that families turn to when extended searches are needed. She's working alongside SCDNR through her organization, Mitchell's Light, to help with extended searches along when resources are tight, or equipment isn't accessible with the goal of keeping hope alive for families affected.

Explaining DNR, Pickens, Oconee, and Anderson County dive teams are all working around the clock to bring closure to this family, but she said the agencies are limited by a certain point in time. 

"They're very limited on the time they can give out, not because they don't want to, but because it's the way it is. So being that company, that organization if we can the funding in place, we don't have a time limit," Johnson said. 

Wife rescued, husband still missing in Lake Hartwell, SC

Today I watched many entities come together at Lake Hartwell to strive for a common goal of bringing closure to a family, a family waiting. The wife was rescued yesterday, the husband is still missing. I was very impressed with the professionalism, the willingness of Anderson County Sheriffs Office to bring in ANY resource needed to help this family, DNR officers from both states working together with technical rescues, K9's and divers from other agencies working as one, it made me proud to say that I am part of Anderson County and that Chad McBride and his office, as well as DNR and how they are doing everything necessary, in their power, to help this family. They have all came together to achieve one common goal. This common goal superseded state lines. Many agencies in local areas are participating and even GA brought in equipment that we do not have access to in our area. Multiple entities have been contacted and a plan is in place. A plan is in place which means that a family can breathe a little easier knowing that ACSO, DNR, and MULTIPLE agencies with various types of equipment from MULTIPLE states are willing to come and bring their volunteers, their divers, their officers, their love and compassion to help bring a family closure. In saying this, know that while this isn't always the case, I hope in the future, we have the ability to have some of this kind of equipment in our area. Many do not know the need until it is someone you know, then every one of us wonders...WHY DON'T we have the equipment? Today, I prayed hard for that family to get closure as I KNOW the pain, the waiting and the hope that on this day, you will get closure. I know that the plans that Jenny Pierce and myself are working towards will allow the family of another loved one to not wait for other equipment from other entities, we want that equipment and training on our waters, in our area and ready on the day it is needed. Eventually, this can happen. Our foundation, www.MitchellsLight.Org, will eventually be in that place that can hopefully be a leader, a resource and the ones to bring others home. Pray for that family today, pray every single day, pray for closure, peace, hope and love.

Coming Soon!


We have taken the steps to plan a training event like no other that has ever happened in our state. This training seminar will include sonar training, K9's and their handlers, Divers, Investigative Tools, and how to help this array of tools work together in tandem to find the loved one that is missing in that lake, that river or that pond. Water recovery is like a foreign language and with the amount of lakes, rivers and shoreline that is utilized every day, this is unacceptable.