The Walworth County Sheriff’s Department allowed Bruce’s Legacy to join in the search for Patrick Wetzel on day three since the canoe accident.
Upon our arrival, Mill Lake had just frozen over completely with 2-4” of ice. With the help of some locals and their work boats, they broke up paths of ice that enabled us to travel about one mile to the search site.
After one day on the water, we collected four sonar images of interest to investigate further.
The search area from the previous day had again frozen over. Because of the amount of damage from breaking ice to some of the boats, coupled with unsafe ice conditions, it was too dangerous to put anyone out in this area. So, a plan was put into place to get scuba divers into the area as soon as ice conditions were safer.
Meanwhile, the Walworth County Dive Team continued to assess the scene each morning. Eventually, the warmer temperatures allowed the dive team to enter the water. They were able to make the recovery.
In my 25 years of involvement with underwater searches, I have worked with many teams and been blown off by many departments. I commend the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department. They proved that they will do everything possible in a search, while keeping all involved safe. I believe by utilizing resources that are readily available is the best action for success. The drive and determination to not give up demonstrated by their dive team is also commendable. The conditions they faced were unfriendly and tough, but they showed up every morning to see what they could do.
I admire this organization for what they have accomplished!
My heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these boys. I appreciate Patrick’s father Mark, for understanding the decisions we make, to keep the rescuers safe while working these tragic situations.
Among our many challenges to conduct the search were:
- Ice on the lake that needed to broken up and path cleared
- A brand new boat fitted with a new sonar and winch system that we had just configured without a trial run to see how well it would work together
- A first-time boat operator that took off from work to help me out
- The thick mass of weeds in this area of the lake made it tough to get good, clear sonar images.