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Tyler Spink Search

tyler-spink-lake-michigan-search-bruces-legacy

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.”

Search Update for Kyle Keith

Kyle Keith

On the morning of April 15th I received a request from the Eau Claire Fire Department for aid in locating a missing boater in Dells Pond located in the City of Eau Claire. Two men went out fishing and the boat filled with water and sank. One was able to make it back to shore and survived. I arrived around 9 am and had a briefing of the incident. The boat was still on the bottom of the lake with the gas tank floating and still attached to the boat. I was about 40 minutes into our search when we came across our target using the Klein 3900 sonar tow fish. There was no doubt after a couple of passes. We then deployed our metal dog kennel in the lake and worked that within 10’ of our target. Meanwhile, the Eau Claire Fire Department Dive Team suited up. They entered the water soon after and made a quick recovery of the missing boater.
I was then asked to aid in the recovery of the boat. The dive team made the connection to the boat along with a lift bag. We then towed it to shore for the flatbed wrecker.
The operation went so smooth with very little risk to the divers. We could tell that there was no debris in the immediate area. By putting our cage next to the target, which is on a line to the surface with a float, the diver just needs to follow it down with little time spent looking underwater.
I would like to commend the Eau Claire Fire Department, first for reaching out for assistance and second for doing a professional job. Way too often departments will not allow us to assist even when I have called and made the offer. Not only does this system keep the divers safer but allows for a faster outcome for the families involved.
For more on this click on this link
http://www.weau.com/home/headlines/Search-underway-after-boat-capsizes-on-Dells-Pond-in-Eau-Claire375644111.html

Pyramid Lake, Nevada Search

Ryan Osberg

Ryan Osberg

Bob Glennon

Bob Glennon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan. 1st, 2016 Ryan Osberg and Bob Glennon went fishing on Pyramid Lake NV. When the two did not return, the authorities were notified.  Their truck was found near tire tracks of where they may have launched their boat.

Jan. 14th I was first contacted by a friend of one of the families looking for help to locate Ryan and Bob. It was reported that the search was called off by the Paiute Tribe Unit until they had a better-known location and weather.

Monday Jan. 25th we were asked by Ryan’s sister to come locate Ryan and Bob. Ryan’s sister put me in contact with the Paiute Tribal Emergency Response Coordinator and the Washoe County Dive Coordinator.  After a phone conversation with both agencies, I felt that we would get their cooperation to conduct a search.

There were some lake access permits that needed prior approval from the tribal council allowing us access to the lake to conduct our search. I mentioned that I have a business trip and I fly out of Chicago early on Feb. 9th. That means I would have to leave on Feb. 5th to make it back in time. The Tribal EMC said he would see what he could do.

Thursday Jan. 28th Beth and I left WI towing our boat for 1900 miles and a 30-hour drive. We got stuck in Wells, NV due to a couple of semi’s that was blocking I-80 from an accident. We woke up to 6” of snow the next morning. We made it to the Reno Hotel to meet with the family and friends that came from California that evening. We then found the family was not getting the cooperation they had hoped from the tribe in expediting permission for this specific search operation.

Sunday Jan. 31st We met with the Tribal EMC at their lodge. He agreed to set up a meeting with the Tribal Chairman in the morning and call us with the time. The family then went to the Ranger Station in which they were able to purchase the initial permit that all boaters have to purchase to be out on the lake.

Monday, Feb. 1st Late into the afternoon and the Tribal EMC had not yet called as promised. Along with the family, we decided to put the boat in and finish out the last couple of hours of the day on the lake scanning with sonar since we did have a boating permit.

We were about 1 ½ hours into our search when I got a call to come to the boat landing. I was met by the Tribal EMC and two more from the tribe. The family arrived with me where a heated discussion took place. I then was ordered off the Tribal Nation Reservation which surrounds and includes Lake Pyramid. We packed up and left. AND NOBODY ONE ENDED UP IN THE WATER!

Tuesday Feb. 2nd and Wednesday Feb. 3rd the family spent pleading with the Tribal folks to let us search and bring home their loved ones.

Wednesday Feb. 3rd in the afternoon, I was notified by the family that they were granted permission for us to operate on Pyramid Lake.

The families’ strong will and determination to have a chance to get their family members back home is what persuaded the council members to give us the permission to operate on their lake.

Feb. 4th We got back on the water all day Thursday and got a large area covered by sonar. We had no solid targets of interest.

Feb 5th  Friday was pretty windy but we stayed with it. Late in the day we felt that we found both the gentlemen. I notified the authorities and sent them the images. The Sheriff’s Department Dive Team was then scheduled to come out and join the search, so this worked out perfect. We agreed on a meeting time for the next day. The depth was 130’ and including the elevation; 145’. Now it would need to be considered a technical dive limit.

Saturday Feb. 6th  I was pleasantly surprised with the boats and manpower that had showed up to assist.  The team leaders asked how I envisioned this search to proceed.  When I got done with this interview I was impressed with the questions they asked. They agreed to everything and we began to brief the team.

At this depth, we needed to get our metal cage located within a few feet of our targets, to allow a diver to drop down a line from the surface to the cage right where the target is. It was afternoon by the time the first target was marked appropriately. We then decided to dive the target. The Washoe County Dive Team allowed me to make the dive and they were the backup divers. All went as planned and Bob Glennon was recovered.

Sunday Feb. 7th  We meet at the boat landing with the Washoe County Dive Team Leader early on this morning to get a good start. Once again things went well and with all the help from the dive team they put our cage on our target. All went as planned and now Ryan Osberg was out and on his way home.

Working for Bob and Ryan’s family and friends all week was amazing. They were always there offering their help and making sure we had what we needed. The hurdles they were hit with and the way they fought back; I can assure you that Bob and Ryan are very proud of them! I only wish that more families knew there are more options and resources than they are told by authorities at times.

Patrick Wetzel Search on Mill Lake

 

Patrick Wetzel Search Lake Mill Bruces Legacy

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.

Lake Michigan Search 2

Lake Michigan Search-2

Lake Michigan Search Bruces Legacy Lake Michigan Search_Bruces Legacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday we were able to get our marker near our primary target of interest. The Ottawa County Sheriff Department came out with their ROV and confirmed that this was not what we were looking for. We continued to run the sonar and expand our search area with nothing new.

The weather started to turn rough on Thursday. The wind and waves picked up enough to prevent us from going out for Thursday and Friday. We were able to use this time to conduct some more interviews and learn more of the men’s’ fishing habits.

We went on the water early Saturday morning and covered about 3 square miles in about 10 hours. Unfortunately the sonar imaging was providing no interesting targets. The weather forecast for Sunday, and most of the week, looked very bad to be on the water.

We got up early Sunday morning with high hopes that the weather forecast would be wrong. But the weather buoy was indicating 8’ waves. We met with the two families and they had decided it would be best to suspend the lake search. They have been through so much in this two week period and are so grateful for everyone’s concern and help in trying to find their family members.

I knew going into this search it was going to be very difficult. Due to the lack of a last known location, the time frame of the fishermen’s departure, the time reported missing and also that Lake Michigan is  an enormous area to search. We only had cell phone records that gave us 24 square miles of Lake Michigan to search. We accomplished to search a large area with what time we had. Unfortunately this time of year brings wind and waves which make our work and collecting good, clear sonar images pretty much impossible.

This search was like many we have been involved with. We meet so many amazing people and I would like to acknowledge some.

*Dave Sutton from Milwaukee, WI for sharing Bruce’s Legacy with a friend of the family.

*Pete Bosheff from Spring Lake, MI for making all this come together. He put the word out about needing a boat large enough for a large search up to 7 miles off shore. He then found the best boat captain in the area.

*Drew, Cathy and Chris Morris of Muskegon, MI for getting us out and back off the lake each day. Running sonar on a big lake in search for small items requires precise grid patterns. Their knowledge of all areas on this lake was extremely helpful.

*West Marine of Muskegon for giving Drew paid days off to captain the boat.

*Neil Squires of Byron Center, MI for supplying a boat and helping a couple of days.

*James Beech of Wyoming, MI that came out on the lake to help out.

*Joe Niewiek of Grand Rapids, MI for borrowing us a $100,000.00 boat. Having a large boat to work from was the key factor in allowing us to cover as much area as we did.

*Dave Niewiek of Grand Rapids, MI who came out to help out on the boat.

*Holiday Inn, Spring Lake for discounting rates for our stay.

*Baymont Inn, Holland for discounting rates for our stay.

*Cabellas of Holland for some donated items to aid in our searches.

The men’s families were incredibly supportive and made sure we were safe and had everything we needed.

It is with a heavy heart that we have to leave this search. Not getting the results we were all working towards is tough in these situations. We were told by the families that our being their searching, gave them some peace and that Aaron and Chris would be proud for all of the support that they have received.

Lake Michigan Search

holland2 holland3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct. 1st I received a message from a friend of the family of one of two missing fisherman near Grand Haven, Michigan on Lake Michigan. He indicated that two missing fisherman, Aaron Juarez and Chris Thode, their two dogs and boat, had been missing since Sept. 26th and the Coast Guard have called of their search. We started making arrangements and started out for the seven hour drive to Grand Haven Michigan.

We arrived around midnight Saturday. We met with my contacts and family members at a boat launch Sunday morning to get what info they had.

The coast guard had gathered cell phone records that would send us out seven miles off shore, in about 200’ of water. With nothing else to go on we decided to work that area.

Later that day we located an object that appeared to be a small boat. Now to pin point this item in 200’ of water when we have 600’ of cable out from our sonar, becomes a real challenge. We continued to work the sonar on Monday to better pin-point our object of interest. We had been in contact with the Ottowa County Sheriff’s Dept. whom has a tow-type sonar and ROV (remote operated vehicle) which also has sonar. They came out on Tue and ran into problems with their camera. On Tue. we also had mechanical problems and lost most of the day but got up and running later in the day. We are still working on getting an ROV down to this to see if the item is what we are looking for. But working at this depth and distance from shore has proven to be more difficult than one can imagine. The weather has been good to us and the support from the locals has been great.

Angela Search Update 5/6/15

On May 6th, 31 days after Angela went missing in the WI River we put together another group to dive on trees underwater where some cadaver dog teams had some interest. Gary Goerge and I cleared the three snag areas by diving on them. We now have 2′-3′ of visibility with special underwater lights.

We know went to the “last resort”plan that we have been talking about for some time. Darrin, from the Richland County Emergency Managment lined up a local logger with a skidder.   We then hooked up the cables to the trees and pulled them up onto the bank to be looked over. We had boats in the water downstream and poeple on the high banks to watch for anything to come up. After the trees were pulled out we dove the areas to give a final check. Still no sight of Angela.

In my 25 years as a public saftey diver, I have never seen or heard of any recovery operation go to these lengths. The amount of effort and resources poured into located this little girl has been impressive. Although it is still hard at the end of the day, I know that we are given it everything.

Darrin will be continueing to work with the cadaver dogs and organizing shoreline searchs.

Our heartfelt thoughts are with this family each and every day!PICT0004

Angela Search Update 4/25/15

IMG_20150425_162922189_HDROn Friday the 24th , I traveled back to Gotham WI. I was met by one of the local wardens who volunteered to share his boat for the next two days. The Richland County EM coordinator, Darrin, along with volunteers Jim, Pat, and Mike, were again on hand as they have been every day that I have been here. We collected more sonar images in the areas deemed most likely to render results.  But the afternoon rain came in and unfortunately cut our day a little short. This gave me more opportunity to sit in the motel room to review all of our images multiple times. Sadly, there was nothing of interest showing up with the sonar search. I kept going over past sonar images and still nothing new.

On Saturday we meet at the boat landing again with the same guys. My plan was to put the ROV in and check more of the tree and the brush piles that are underwater. The Remote Operated Vehicle is operated from the boat or from the shore and is equipped with lights and an HD camera, which allows us to see what is on the bottom without getting wet.  This cost of the system is $85,000.00 and with the combination of possible snags and current, there is always the risk of getting the ROV hung up, which I did. With the help of the folks in the other two boats, we did succeed in freeing the equipment each time it was hung up. Again, we found nothing.

Angela has been missing now for about 20 days. I have spent 7 of those days on the river with many volunteers in hopes of bringing a tiny bit of comfort to a desperate family. Many of the local volunteers have spent many more days assisting in the recovery efforts, and local’s Pat and Mike have spent every day doing shoreline searches by boat. The county officials have poured a lot of resources into the search for Angela, including cadaver dogs, planes, a helicopter, a drone, dragging operations, and organized shoreline searches.

Rivers are the most difficult bodies of water in which to work. Poor visibility along with debris, make recoveries very complicated and sometimes the result does not align with our relentless desire for a recovery. During the searches, I have come to realize how important it is to keep the families up to date.  The hardest part of what I do is to actually make that call to let someone know that we did not find their loved one.  I can’t even begin to imagine what Angela’s mom and family are going through each day. She has been very understanding and grateful for what everyone is doing. I regret that I have not been able to offer them the solace that I so desperately wanted them to find during this time. Even though I realize it is not enough to compensate for their loss, the support of a great community will continue to wrap the family in comfort as everyone continues to support for this family.

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