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July 2017 California Searches

On the evening of July 3rd, 2017, Auston Strole, a twelve-year-old boy was accidentally struck by a boat which he had been tubing behind on Shasta Lake, in California. He has been unlocatable and is presumed drowned as his life vest was found floating on the water with evidence of damage from a boat prop.

After local authorities decided to scale back their searches limited to the shoreline, a friend of Auston’s family passed our information on to the Strole family. His Grandfather Steve Cobb, contacted us and asked what we required to travel to California and search for Auston. We explained that we are a nonprofit and only require travel and lodging expenses.

Later that afternoon a businessman from Reno, Nevada called. He was familiar with our two previous recoveries from Pyramid Lake in 2016. He kindly offered to pay all of the expenses for our search so we prepared to make our way.

Sunday, July 16, 2017, Beth and I left in the morning from Black River Falls, Wisconsin on our 2100 mile, 30-hour trip to Shasta Lake. This has been our longest trip to date via the highway for Bruce’s Legacy to date.

After arriving at Shasta Lake early Tuesday morning we met with family and witnesses. We had the fortunate assistance of Rich Glennon and Justin Brown who are great friends made from our previous search on Pyramid Lake. They are family and friends to two men whom we recovered from the lake in 2016 and are now valuable assets to our team. We can’t thank them enough for their help and positive attitudes. We gathered as much information as possible and began our search for Auston.

We soon found that the Digger’s Bay area had the most difficult bottom composition we have yet to experience. The steep and rapid drop offs, with a depth of up to 350’ and a plethora of random rocks, boulders and crevices made it extremely challenging for our sonar. We also had the help of our businessmen from Reno; John, and Matt from KFC Building Concepts. These two were total strangers to the Strole family and ourselves, yet knew of Auston’s situation and simply wanted to help. They provided so much wonderful support for this search and also for the remainder of our California searches. Rachel was also of considerable assistance along with John and Matt gathering information and any administrative assistance necessary.

We spent seven days working in temperatures of over 100 degrees and felt that we covered all that was humanly possible. We were unable to locate him and unfortunately decided it was time for our search to close.

The entire community of Shasta Lake was supportive and accommodating. Many people from Auston’s family and friends should be commended for their efforts and kindness. Auston’s Grandfather Jeff Strole Sr., was there every day; dawn to dusk, patrolling in a boat along with the assistance of many, many others. Auston’s family and friends were a pleasure to work with and they exhausted all means necessary to do all they could do.

THE SEARCH FOR MARCOS VASQUEZ- STAMPEDE RESERVOIR, CA

During our search for Auston Strole, John, Rachel, and Matt informed us of another nearby drowning victim in Stampede Reservoir. Marcos, 12 and his brother 14, were apparently on a trip with a church group and had ventured out on the water in a sit-on-top kayak. The vessel capsized in rough water. Marcos’s brother survived after being picked up by another boat in the area.

We headed that direction next and arrived in Truckee, CA, on Tuesday, July 25th. With almost no information available, we began our search with John and Matt assisting us on the boat. We searched depths of 200’ and after two full days of searching, combined with the local authorities having very little witness information, we had no choice but to end our search. More to add regarding Marcos later. Our prayers go out to him and his family.

 

 

THE SEARCH FOR MARC MA- LAKE TAHOE, CA

Over one year ago on June 10, 2016, Marc Ma and several friends, ventured onto Lake Tahoe on stand-up boards out of Homewood, CA from an area near the West Shore Café and Obexer’s Pier. Conditions on Lake Tahoe were not ideal at the time for this type of activity and they had problems almost immediately. Marc became separated from the group, likely in a quest to get help. Marc was an accomplished athlete and College Football player. A nearby boat mechanic at Obexer’s Pier saw the situation and retrieved the others with his boat who were in that immediate area. He then tried to locate Marc but to no avail.

The local emergency teams, Placer County Police Department and Coast Guard searched for Marc. Additionally, a different private sonar search company was called in but Marc was not located and eventually, the search was suspended.

After Marc’s accident, our information was shared with Marc’s family by a family member from another successful search we conducted. We were contacted via email by a member of Marc’s family in April of this year but were awaiting confirmation to search for him. Since we were so close in the area while looking for Auston Strole, we returned contact to the family member and given the go-ahead to search.

On Friday, July 28, we arrived and met with Sergeant Detective Dave Hunt of Placer County. He was gracious and extremely informative and helped us with a briefing on the previous work for the case. There was a video from a live webcam recording which gave us some detail as to the area of the accident. Along, with other accounts of last possible points seen, we put together our search plan. We are thankful to be joined by Justin Brown, who had just helped us the week prior in Lake Shasta. Justin’s insight and technical knowledge were a huge contribution to aiding in our search.

Lake Tahoe is the largest Lake in California by volume as well as the deepest at a maximum of 1,645’ deep. The bottom contour varies tremendously with steep drop-offs and large random rock formations as well as cliff plateaus.

We searched with sonar all day July 29th and ended with a couple of interesting targets by the end of the day. We returned Sunday the 30th to recheck our targets of interest and set up the ROV but our battle with the underwater cliffs and terrain took up the better part of that day and we were forced to wait until Monday for another go.

Monday morning, July 31st we confirmed one of our previous sonar targets as a drowning victim with the ROV and contacted Placer County Sherrif Dept. Again, we would like to thank the entire community for their help and hospitality.

We wish the Ma family and friends peace and want to let them know our thoughts are with them.

The Gulf Search Update

On Saturday June 3rd, I received a message from Cindy, Founder of a non-profit group “Blake Terry Memorial Foundation” out of Thibodaux, Louisiana. Cindy informed me of a missing diver in the Gulf and asked if I could assist in locating him. Chet Cassell went out on a spear fishing trip to an oil rig 50 miles off shore along with two other divers. He was last seen at 40′ on the rig, putting a fish on his stringer. The seas where 6’-7′ and there was a good current. The divers entered the water looking for Chet but could not locate him. They then called the coast guard and they searched through the end of Sunday.

A group of very experienced divers from a spear fishing group called Helldivers went out on Sunday and searched the rig with no luck.

Cindy had contacted Okeanus Science & Technologies President, Benton Leblanc , in which they furnished us (free of charge) with a Klein 3900 sonar, the same model that I own. This allowed me to fly down. Cindy arranged for me to go out with the divers on their boat.

I boarded a plan from Madison, WI Monday afternoon and arrived in La Fayette Louisiana at 11:30 pm. I was picked up by Chet’s sister, Dawanna and her son Casey. We then drove a couple of hours to Grand Chenier, LA.

Tuesday morning we met up with the dive team at the boat landing. I hooked the sonar to make sure we had everything and it checked out good. Now for a 50 mile run.

Cassey had told me of the Sunday boat ride, that almost everybody gets sea sick. I started taking motion sickness pills as soon as I arrived after hearing that. When I got to the dock I noticed they all had the motion sickness patches. Now I was getting pretty nervous. The boat captain said the forecast was calling for 12-14′ seas. They asked if I was prone to sea sickness. I admitted I was and they gave me a patch.

We made it out to the oil rig in about 2.5 hours. The 32′ boat was outfitted with twin Mercury 200 motors in which made good time. On the way out it was starting to get rougher, I asked one of the guys what he would call these waves, he smiled and responded, “flat”. I was thinking more like 2-4′ seas and not looking forward to the 12-14′ seas they had mentioned. We launched the sonar and searched the area for most of the day. The depth was 80′ and a pretty clean bottom. If Chet would have been here yet, we would have found him. With the current they have out this far off shore, it is very hard to say where he could be. It was a long boat ride back to shore to say the least.

I spent some time talking with Chet’s sister and nephew about Chet. Chet was a free spirited kind of guy and he died doing what he loved doing, spear fishing.

Although I am feeling bad that I could not bring Chet home, I have some comfort knowing that Chet’s family realizes that it took a lot of people with big hearts to make this kind of search happen and that they have done all they can. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Chet’s family. He will be missed by many!

Boat Recovery – Altoona

Boat Recovery – Two fisherman out in Lake Altoona, WI ran into trouble and found themselves swimming for their lives. The waves picked up and flooded their boat. They struggled to get life jackets out and on by the time the boat filled with water and sank. A DNR warden, while on routine patrol of the county park, had noticed the lone boat on the lake. He looked away, but then noticed that the boat was no longer there. He called it in to the local fire rescue team. They rescued the two fishermen. Because they were lucky enough to get to their life jackets, they are alive today. The owner contacted a local guy to retrieve his boat, but he could not find it after two days searching the lake. The owner then contacted me. We went out and found it in 45 minutes. It was upside down in 12 feet of water. I had recruited some new help for this project: my cousin Greg, who lives the area, as well as Duane, from La Crosse. Together we were successful in rigging and flipping the boat over to be towed to shore. We then loaded it up on the owner’s trailer. The boat owner mentioned how tough it was to dig out and put on the life jackets in the heat of the moment. This was a good outcome. Please wear your life jackets when you are on the water! We never have had to look for someone that had their life jacket on.

Mark Graham Recovery

Mark Graham Search

Mark’s fishing boat was reported to be running in circles in the middle of Little Lake Buttes des Mortes in Menasha, WI. On Saturday April 1st, we were notified through social media about the missing man from the previous Monday. After seeing they were unable to locate the man, I reached out to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and did not receive a return call. I then reached out to the Wisconsin DNR to assist and they welcomed our help. 

 

Early Tuesday morning Dave Whitehouse, a Bruce’s Legacy Board Member and firefighter, and I traveled to Menasha. We met with local authorities and the Mark’s family. After 1 ½ hours of running sonar, we did locate a very promising image. The WI DNR then put their ROV (remote operated vehicle) on the image and verified that it was the subject. The Winnebago County Dive Team recovered the body a short time later. 

We were pleased to have a member of the DNR and the Winnebago Sheriff’s Office deputy, on the boat with us while on the search. I hope that they are more likely to invite our skills for these types of searches in the future. The departments get bombarded from the public with offers to help in these situations. I have come to understand that it will not always be easy for municipalities to seek assistance, but for the welfare of the families it can be imperative to know when to we should work together.

 

Adam Clark Search

Adam Clark Search

April 1st, Adam’s mother contacted us to search, a portion of the Mississippi River, for her son. His car was previously found, with no signs of Adam. They have exhausted land searches during the five weeks that he has been missing. On Sunday April 1st,   Beth and I traveled to Minneapolis, MN. We arrived at Hidden Falls Boat Landing and met with Jay. Jay is affiliated with United Legacy, a group that has been conducting land searches and has offered to assist us. We searched the area of interest. As always in the Mississippi River, there are a lot of objects on the bottom. We found an object of interest. I knew this had to be checked out. The Hennepin County Water Patrol was conducting a shoreline search in the area, so we called them over. They agreed that is was a target of interest. They have an ROV (remote operated vehicle) and offered to check the target out. They assembled their team and came out, but had problems with their ROV and were unable to check the target. As it was getting late, we agreed to stay the night and to put our new ROV in, to check the target the next morning.  

On Monday, we recruited one of Bruce’s Legacy’s Board Members, Josh Knutson to help. We met with the Water Patrol and went back to the search area. We located the target but found it to be a log, with a branch and weeds hanging on it. We felt we had searched to rest of the area of interest in the most thorough, but safe manner as possible.

This is an unwitnessed case, there are not many leads for anyone to go on. Searches can eliminate areas of possibility. I truly hope Adams shows up someday alive and that he just needed time away. For the family, I hope they can get answers soon. 

***Adam was found April 8th by a tug boat operator on Saturday approximately 20 river miles from where his car was located. Our heart felt condolences go out to the family and friends of Adam.

 

Search Update for Andrew Stifter

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December 3, 2016

Lake Waconia, Waconia, MN Update

At the beginning of this week, I had been notified by some friends/business associates of a missing man in Lake Waconia Minnesota by the name of Andrew Stifter. He was reported missing Saturday, November 26, 2016. I then received a phone call from Andrew’s wife Katie, on the following Thursday requesting our services to aid the search. We were then put in contact with the Carver County Sheriff Department. Beth and I then immediately headed out that same evening.

Friday morning, we met with the Sheriff and the Incident Commander to receive a full briefing. We were also pleased to meet with Katie and Andrew’s mother, as well as another friend, for additional information. We were prepared to launch but during a precheck, discovered that our sonar would not properly start. The Carver County Sheriff’s Department was gracious enough to let us into their well-equipped County Shop to troubleshoot the equipment. They have an extremely knowledgeable staff, including Dan Sullivan, who was able to troubleshoot and pinpoint our problem down to a connection on our sonar cable. We then contacted Klein Marine Systems and had them overnight a new cable from New Hampshire to our hotel.

We had heard from the local Sheriff’s Department, that they were also bringing in the St. Louis County Water Patrol with Sonar, ROV and Cadaver Dog Team. We worked with Tom Crossman and Dave Phillips, of the St. Louis Team on a previously successful case on Lake Superior, in October. We were very glad to work with them again.

We decided to start out the next morning checking the shallow water with our Lowrance System, while awaiting the delivery of our new cable. To our surprise, it arrived midmorning. The Sheriff’s team retrieved it from the hotel and had it delivered to us directly on Lake Waconia. After a quick installation, we began a full day of grid pattern searches with the Klein Sonar.

We worked simultaneously with the St. Louis County Department, to search and eliminate a large area that would logically contain a location for Andrew. The cadaver dogs showed some interest in a large weeded area. It was discussed that it would be best to bring in divers the following day, (Sunday) for that attempt. This would be the most effective way to search this grassy and weedy type of environment. The Carver County Dive Team dove on this area on Sunday and could not locate anything of interest.
Unfortunately, because we had covered all areas that would be reasonable for his location with our sonars, we closed out our portion of the search to head home.

The Carver County Sheriff, Jim Olson, and his staff were unquestionably an honor to work with. The openminded and resourceful decision to bring in willing specialists from other areas, such as ourselves, is commendable. True leadership, in every way, was clearly evident and a great experience to be of service too. Thank you to the entire Carver County Team.

Videoray ROV article on Lake Superior Search

Complete article can be read HERE: 

Joint effort by Crossmon Consulting, Bruce’s Legacy, Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, and Local Agencies perform deep water recovery safely

The story was very sad, but also not unusual. Three boaters – aged 9, 43, and 61, had been missing for two weeks. A large scale search by the Coast Guard Station Marquette, Michigan, Coast Guard Station Portage, Michigan, Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Canadian Department of National Defense was conducted. Also searching were aircraft from around the U.S. and Canada including C-130s. The search covered 14,000 square miles over 151 hours, but was unsuccessful and therefore called off.

Crossmon Consulting and Bruce’s Legacy – both small organizations that are called upon to find drowning victims, sprang into action. Using their collective experience from many successful searches, they used clues such as a final cell phone ping to determine search areas, and towed sidescan sonars to conduct the wide area search. After three days of searching, Keith Cormican of Bruce’s Legacy located and identified the a boat the correct shape and size in 280 feet of water – well beyond of reach of most divers – with his Klein Marine Systems 3900 side scan sonar. Crossmon’s VideoRay Pro 4 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to confirm that the boat was indeed the right boat, and all three victims were located near the boat. Using the small, portable Pro 4 they retrieved two bodies from the wreck. The third was entangled and needed the efforts of an intervention-class ROV.

A few days later, the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, using a boat from Michigan Tech, used a larger vehicle with a cutter to free and recover the final victim. The efforts of several specialists were involved in this project – Tom Crossmon and Dave Phillips of Crossmon Consulting, Keith Cormican and Beth Darst of Bruce’s Legacy, and Hans VanSumeren and John Lutchko from Great Lakes Water Studies, among many.

Tyler Spink Search

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Tyler Spink of Kalkaska, MI was kayaking with a friend in the waters off Platte Bay Monday, Sept. 5th, when the kayaks capsized. A fisherman in the area reportedly heard screaming and found two capsized kayaks. They were able to rescue Spink’s friend.

The National Parks Service, which was the last agency searching for Tyler ended its search Friday, Sept. 10.

On Sept 26th, I was contacted by a friend from Michigan informing me of the search for Tyler Spink. I reached out to Tyler’s family to inform them of Bruce’s Legacy and offered our services.

I learned that the family was not from the Platt Bay area yet the mother was so determined, she wasn’t leaving without her son. Also, the family was very involved with organizing searches after the local authorities had exhausted their search efforts.

On October 6th, we drove to Manitowoc, WI. There, we boarded a ferry with the truck and boat to get us across the lake. Then, five hours later we arrived in Ludington, MI to begin our two hour drive North to Frankfort, MI.

I reached out to Drew Morris from Muskegon, MI to ask for his assistance. I had met Drew last year, at this same time when Bruce’s Legacy was in Holland, Mi to search for two missing fisherman. Drew is a retired school teacher who has spent a lifetime on the lake with his charter fishing service. He has a wealth of Lake Michigan boating knowledge. Graciously, Drew and his wife Kathy agreed to help and began making arrangements to get off from work.

We all met with Dave and Kelly, Tyler’s stepdad and mother. later that evening and talked about the search.

October 7th, after looking at the lake’s weather forecast, we knew it going to be rough waters. The southern winds forecasted would make the 12 mile run a bumpy ride out and back but the search area would be protected by some shoreline. We were able to broadly scan the area we planned to focus on first. The underwater survey was necessary to get an idea what the bottom contour was like and what we were up against. There was a big drop off that we had been warned of, by previous searchers. After some short scanning the waves were building up, so we headed back to Frankfort port.

With Drew navigating  the waves, we made it back safely with even more respect for this massive lake. We then met with Kelly and Dave (Tylers parents) for dinner.

October 8th, the winds proved too much and wouldn’t allow us out on the lake. We took this downtime to travel up to Empire and scope out another boat access. This proved not to be a good location for our boat as there was no dock in place. We then stopped at a location near the Platte River where Tyler and his friend had left from, to enter Lake Michigan. They had planned to camp on sand dunes, along the lake.

Visiting these locations was beneficial to us. It provided a better perspective of our intended search area from a shoreline view. Sunday’s forecast looks more favorable for us to actually get out on the lake to get searching. We’ll keep you updated as we go along.

Update as of Oct 16th

Oct 9th we covered a large area again with only finding a 16’ sail boat in about 160’ of water.

Oct 10th we covered a lot of area and late in the afternoon the laptop decided to do a Windows 10 update. This took close to two hours to complete while floating out in this area. Thank you Windows 10!!!

Oct 11th we picked up from where the computer shut down from the previous day and within minutes we picked up on our first image of a good target. We worked on getting the cages on the target and ran out of time knowing the wind was going to make a rough ride back.

Oct 12th   the winds blew and waves are too big. We pulled into the Bay View Restaurant to use up some time and use their WiFi. We already had homemade biscuits and gravy that Kelly made for us but found ourselves ordering a light breakfast and getting some much needed work done on the computer. Before we knew it, it was 1:30 and they close at 2 pm. It was a first for any of us, to be in one restaurant for two consecutive meals. The staff brought us fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and fresh apples, in addition to our orders.  I was able to share some of what we do with a few of the locals to help them better understand our mission.

Oct 13th hoping that the waves would be better, we poked out on the lake and decided that we would have to wait it out for calmer winds.

The fall weather has not been good to us here. We have been able to sneak out for some time here and there but usually with a rough ride. from the search area and back 12 is miles to the Franfort Marina.

The toughest decision for us is knowing when to say “when”, even though we want so badly to continue for the family. The local Coast Guard official explained to us that this is normal fall weather here with unpredictable changes in short time spans.

With deepest regrets to Tyler’s amazing and inspiring family, we will need to return in the spring when weather allows a safe search on this powerful body of water.

We have so many people to thank,  we hope we haven’t forgotten anyone.

Thanks and appreciation to/for:

  • For the cabin we stayed at; so wonderful – so generous
  • Home cooked meals and people paying for some meals
  • Storm Cloud Brewhouse and Restaurant
  • Roadhouse Mexican Bar and Grill
  • Bay View Grill for the 3 meals with wifi and cookies  
  • Hungry Tummy Restaurant
  • Lew Stempki  for passing our Bruce’s Legacy information to Tyler’s Family and getting us connected
  • The Frankfort Coast Guard Station and Staff
  • Drew and Kathy Morris and West Marine for giving Drew time to lend his skills
  • The Family of Tyler Spink
  • Community, we would be sitting in a restaurant, people would drive by and see our boat sitting there and call the restaurant and pay for our meals over the phone. Thanks to the anonymous people dropping off food and cards at the cabin when we were searching. Many offers of hospitality throughout that we were unable to even take advantage of because we were so well taken care of.

Houghton-Hancock Michigan, Lake Superior Search

Saturday, September 17th, 61-year-old Keith Karvonen of Atlantic Mine, MI; 43-year-old Steven Chartre of Negaunee/Ishpeming area and his 9-year-old son Ethan boarded Karvonen’s 14-foot boat to do some fishing. Later that evening they were reported missing

Once the report was made, searching for the trio were crews from: Coast Guard Station Marquette, Michigan, Coast Guard Station Portage, Michigan, Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Canadian Department of National Defense. Also searching are aircraft from around the U.S. and Canada including C-130s.

The crews ended their massive and exhaustive search efforts on September 21st. I reached out to the family to offer our services to which they said that they were in contact Tom Crossman out of Duluth MN. I had actually met Tom earlier this year at a conference, so I decided to reach out to him and see if he wanted our help. Tom graciously accepted.

September 28th, Beth and I headed out on the 7 hour drive for Houghton, Michigan. We met with Tom, his partner Dave and some of the family members that evening. The following morning, we met again with Tom and Dave at the boat landing to devise a strategic plan to hopefully locate the fishermen. We decided I was to focus a search area approximately 5 miles off shore near a cell phone ping that was detected and Tom was to work from the portage entry and work towards the direction of the the cell ping.

September 29th and day one of our search efforts were not as calm as we would have liked. We were in 400 feet of water and having trouble getting the tow fish (sonar) near the bottom. The wind, waves and current were making it very challenging to get good images.

September 30th, and day two, we mounted a depressor wing that a good friend of mine; Will Nash, had made for us. To buy one of these depressors new is $4000.00. (Think of a lead weight you attach to a fishing line). It’s essentially a 40 pound weight attached to the tow fish that is hydrodynamically shaped so it glides through the water and helps drive our tow fish down to the depths that we need, allowing us to get great images of the lake bottom. Unfortunately, nothing of interest had shown up on our images by the end of the day.

October 1st, and day three, we located a boat in 280’ of water. We circled around to make a second pass of the possible missing 14’ boat and received a very nice image confirming it was an actual boat that measured approximately 16’. The excitement of finding the boat rapidly went south.

All of the sudden our boat stopped and began taking an immediate 180 degree turn. At this same time, realizing I still have 600’ of cable out with a $35,000.00 tow fish attached, I only have 50’ of cable remaining on the winch and cable is starting to get pulled out. It’s like catching a big fish that starts to strip line from your reel. You see, the winch is designed much like that of a fishing rod. It will let out cable if it snags something, instead of breaking the cable. This is my first experience snagging on something, yet I know it’s always a serious problem we can encounter.

We slowly directed the boat in the direction of the tow fish, reeling up cable to the point that is was straight beneath our boat and was pulling tight. I knew we were still hung up on the snag, so I called Tom and Dave over for help.

Having about $175,000.00 of my equipment hanging on this cable was not a good feeling. Tom must have clearly understood from the tone of my voice because it didn’t take them long to arrive.

Tom went ahead to deploy his ROV and we first thought it was possibly a fishing net we snagged. From the view of Tom’s ROV camera, it looked like we were free from our snag. We couldn’t see anything on my tow fish and began to winch the fish up but quickly notice it was still pulling up very had. When we finally got the tow fish up to the waters surface, we noticed an anchor line from the boat on the bottom was wrapped around our tow fish.

With the help of Tom and Dave we were able to get the anchor line from the boat on the bottom up and tied off to Tom’s boat. There is no way we could have ever got this all done without these guys. Once we caught our breath, Tom and Dave again deployed the ROV to investigate the boat to see if it’s in fact, the 14’ boat we’ve been searching for. These guys worked incredibly as a team.

Soon we identified this was the 14’ boat of Karvonan’s and that the three missing fishermen are in close proximity to the boat. We quickly notified the local authorities who passed on approval for Tom to recover the fisherman using his ROV. Tom and Dave were able to bring two of the three individuals up to the surface and on the boat. The third, will require additional assistance because of entanglement issues. (We’ve been told on Monday, October 3rd, the Michigan State Police will be on scene to utilize a larger ROV to bring the last remaining fisherman home).

We then all met the family back at the dock to brief them on the situation. This always becomes one of the toughest moments. However, we know this is what offers families the chance to move forward in the grieving process and accommodate their family members.

It’s important we recognize and give appreciation for the many others who assist in these endeavors. It’s not always possible to list everyone but we try to make sure it’s known who the unsung heroes are. For those who haven’t physically taken part in operations like this before, it’s important you are aware the sacrifice involved and vital importance their roles play…To Beth Darst for once again taking time off from work and doing so much to facilitate our operations running smooth. Will Nash and his engineering talents with the depressor wing. The Coast Guard that got us in touch with the MSP who in turn, placed us in contact with the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department which shared information on this case. Super 8 in Houghton for offering us a discounted rate but once we arrived the owner decided to not charge for as long as we needed to be there. The Marina for allowing us to dock our boats. And largely for Tom Crossman and his partner Dave Phillips accepting our offer to assist. They helped in the heat of the moment and shared their knowledge and passion towards the same goal we all have; providing families the closure that is so important.

Practicing Sonar Search Techniques on Lake Michigan’s Shipwrecks

When Keith Cormican of Black River Falls took his boat Bruce’s Legacy into the waters of Baileys Harbor, it was the most fun he has had pushing off of a dock. Cormican and his torpedo-like sonar were searching for shipwrecks, namely the F.J. King, still undiscovered after going down in 150-feet of water back in 1886.

The sonar pulses along behind the boat at about 50-feet above the lake floor, sending an image of the rocky bottom back to the boat.

“You see the detail of the timber, the railings, this thing is just amazing,” said Cormican, pointing to the image on his laptop. “It’s really intriguing and if we can get on a wreck that has never been found before that’s just a bonus.”

Cormican hooked up with his longtime friend Jim Robinson, operator of Shoreline Cruises & Charters in Gills Rock, whose knowledge of the waters around the peninsula and the rest of Lake Michigan are unmatched.

(Left to right) Keith Cormican, Abe Packard, Beth Darst and Jim Robinson at the Baileys Harbor marina.

(Left to right) Keith Cormican, Abe Packard, Beth Darst and Jim Robinson at the Baileys Harbor marina. Photo by Len Villano.

“He’s lived on this lake, he’s got so much knowledge,” said Cormican. “That’s the reason I really started with Jim…because there’s a guy I can gain a lot of knowledge out of.”

The knowledge he is gaining from Robinson on their shipwreck hunt is to help prepare Cormican for the other task of his nonprofit, Bruce’s Legacy. For the past three-and-a-half years, Cormican has traveled throughout North America helping the families of drowning victims get closure.

“When I started Bruce’s Legacy, I’d been all over helping departments try to find missing people,” said Cormican, who has spent 25 years in the public safety field. “Some people just never get found. I knew there’s sophisticated equipment out there to have a better chance to finding these people but it costs big bucks.”

Still, Cormican invested in the equipment to help suffering families find their loved ones. In 1995, Cormican was in one of those families.

“My brother lost his life in 1995 as a firefighter doing a recovery on a missing canoer in our county,” said Cormican of his brother Bruce. “Three daughters and a father went canoeing on a swollen creek. The father perished and the three daughters survived.”

On the mission to recover the father, Bruce Cormican was swept up in the current of Robinson Creek.

“Back then, they didn’t have any training.”

The sonar torpedo is pulled through the water sending pulses, which deliver images through a cable back to the boat. Photo by Len Villano.

The sonar torpedo is pulled through the water sending pulses, which deliver images through a cable back to the boat. Photo by Len Villano.

With the technology Cormican has, the rescue attempt that took his brother’s life may have had a different outcome. Now, Cormican travels throughout the Midwest on searches while training local law enforcement how to best handle water rescues. Touched by the experience in his own family, he simply seeks to be the person who can close the book on a story that has otherwise gone unfinished.

“I’ve dealt with so many families that have not had [closure] or had extended time to get that and it’s brutal on families to know that you’ve got a loved one out on that lake out there and nobody can find them…We want people to know that they have more options,” said Cormican, explaining that the search doesn’t have to end when local law enforcement runs out of time and resources.

Cormican does not charge anything for families that call upon him to search for a loved one. When he travels out of state, such as his trip to Pyramid Lake north of Reno, Nevada, earlier this year, he simply asks for fuel and lodging compensation.

He has traveled from New York to British Columbia helping families get closure on the tragedy of their missing loved ones.

His visit to Door County was prompted by a trip he will make later this spring to Port Sheldon, Mich., to help find two fishermen who were lost on the lake in the fall of 2015.

“We got called in on that one and before this boat [Bruce’s Legacy], I had just operated off of a pontoon boat and that’s not big enough for the big lake,” said Cormican. “We got three square miles searched last year in the four days but then the winds came in. So we have that one rescheduled. We’re going to go back over there. We’re getting things dialed in.”

The images produced by sonar are sharp enough to distinguish the railing on a sunken ship 200 feet beneath the surface. Photo by Len Villano.

The images produced by sonar are sharp enough to distinguish the railing on a sunken ship 200 feet beneath the surface. Photo by Len Villano.

Off the shores of Baileys Harbor, Robinson is helping Cormican navigate the harbors and teaching him how to spot commercial fishing nets. When Cormican goes to Michigan in June, he will know how to handle the big lake.

But to practice, the team will search for the many shipwrecks surrounding the peninsula, collecting detailed images and even spotting things that no one knew was there.

Pulling up one of the images he collected in Gills Rock, Cormican pointed to a long chunk of boat set against an otherwise smooth lake bottom. The wreck had been the attraction of scuba divers for years, but until Cormican took his sonar imaging, no one knew that another section of the ship had broken off and was laid to rest several hundred feet away.

“To have something fun to actually come out and look for is pretty intriguing, I won’t deny that,” said Cormican. “I’d like to get more involved with that part of it as time goes on, but I’ve got a business to run to and I’ve got to try to find a happy medium with that.

“The shipwrecks is the fun stuff, and I know finding people is not glamorous by any means, but it means so much to the participating families. That’s the reason I do it, because I’ve been doing public safety for 25 years and I’ve dealt with grieving families for 25 years and when you can be the one to give them that closure, it’s huge for them. That’s what Bruce’s Legacy is really about – giving that closure for families. I’ve learned so much from Jim this week that’s going to help keep us safe next month. If we find a cool thing here and there, that’s just a bonus.”

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