Officials say boat was 'intact' and had no structural damage - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

A week later: 2 men still missing after boat capsizes in Lake Erie

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The group's truck and boat trailer were found at the Locust Point boat ramp. The group's truck and boat trailer were found at the Locust Point boat ramp.
Crews from local police departments and the Coast Guard are searching for the missing boaters on the shore and in the lake. Crews from local police departments and the Coast Guard are searching for the missing boaters on the shore and in the lake.
Many boats are participating in the search. Many boats are participating in the search.
The Coast Guard and Ottawa County Sheriff's Office have backed off the search. (Source: United States Coast Guard) The Coast Guard and Ottawa County Sheriff's Office have backed off the search. (Source: United States Coast Guard)
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OAK HARBOR, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Two boaters are still missing a week after their disappearance in Lake Erie. Crews are hoping to recover the bodies of Bryan Huff and Andrew Rose, whose boat was found capsized and empty the morning of April 17. The bodies of Paige Widmer and Amy Santus were recovered later that day.

Chad German, area supervisor for ODNR/Division of Watercraft says his agency searched for the missing fishermen for about three hours Thursday. He says if conditions are conducive, they will search Friday as part of regular patrols. 

German says his agency is still talking with the manufacturer of the GPS unit aboard the boat. Investigators hope they can review data on the GPS hard drive to determine the course the boat was traveling and whether it made erratic changes in course. 

According to German, his agency has also contacted Mercury Marine, makers of the boat's outboard motor, to see if that model motor contains a black box. The black box could give investigators a snapshot of the operating conditions of the outboard motor just before it stopped running.

The United States Coast Guard has called off its search, but ODNR crews continue to look for the two men, covering more than 900 miles of Lake Erie. Officials say if anyone finds anything related to the incident, they are advised not to touch it and contact law enforcement immediately. 

On April 18, German revealed findings from an inspection of the boat. But investigators looking for a cause there didn't find one. They say no damage was found on the boat and that it was structurally sound. All of the emergency instruments required by law were on the boat as well.

When asked if weather could have been a factor in the incident, considering the choppy waves that day, officials said that it's always a possibility, but whatever happened to the boat -- happened very quickly. They also say no other parties out fishing that day experienced conditions that were out of the ordinary.

German says the sinking is unexplained. German says the next step to look at the hard drive in the GPS unit to determine if the boat made any erratic maneuvers that could have contributed to it taking on water and eventually sinking.

READ MORE Officials: Boat has no structural damage

Ottawa County Sheriff Steven Levorchick has confirmed the names of the two victims found so far. They are 33-year-old Amy Santus and 17-year-old Paige Widmer. The two missing men have been identified as 32-year-old Bryan Huff, of Rossford, and 34-year-old Andrew Rose, of Maumee.

Ottawa County Coroner Dr. Dan Cadigan says the cause of death for both women was drowning.  Cadigan says there was no evidence of hypothermia. Both women were wearing foul weather suits with jackets, pants and life vests, according to Cadigan. The coroner's office could not determine a time of death because of the cold water temperature, but there were no signs of injury or trauma on either body.

The Coast Guard decided to suspend the search around 8 p.m. April 17 because of water conditions and how long the people have been missing. The search resumed the next morning at 8 a.m. with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office taking the lead.

Ottawa County Sheriff Steven Levorchick said April 18 would be the last day they spend actively searching for the boaters unless there were new developments. 

Officials say the mission of the operation has shifted from search and rescue to recovery. 

"We always fear the worst, hope for the best though. The only real saving grace for us and for myself is the fact that knowing the assets that we have available to us, and knowing the rescue personnel work hard here on our waterways, is really the only comfort that we have is we have some of the best," said Levorchick. "We want to do whatever we can. But at some point, we also have to be realists and understand that we can't be out there all the time."

The United States Coast Guard found the first body near Toussaint Reef around 10 a.m. April 17, approximately 2 miles off the coast. During a joint press conference that afternoon, the Coast Guard and Ottawa County Sheriff said a second body was found. The two female victims recovered were wearing life jackets.

During the press conference, officials said from what they have discovered, the group consisted of experienced boaters. Although the bodies recovered were wearing life jackets, officials say the survival rate for someone with a life jacket on depends if they were in a survival suit. Officials also have no reason to believe alcohol was a factor.

"They were out there searching for the vessel. I spotted it, called them there. They showed up and I asked them if I was free to go fishing and obviously the conservation, DNR, Sheriff, they all come out, tow boat. About an hour and a half later I suppose then, they pulled the boat up," said Doug Bergman, Captain of the Sweet Pea II, who found the capsized boat.  

Earlier on April 17, Coast Guard crews investigated a report of another body in the water, but found it was a floating log.

The search began late on April 16 in Lake Erie near Davis-Besse in Oak Harbor. The Detroit Coast Guard says they found the missing 21-foot Tracker capsized at approximately 8:15 the morning of April 17. It is unclear how long it had been there.

None of the people missing were found near that boat.

Police and Coast Guard members from Belle Isle and Marblehead were all out searching the same day. Coast Guard crews from Stations Marblehead and Toledo and Air Station Detroit received assistance from an air asset from Regional Command Center Trenton, Ontario, a dive team from the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department, water search teams from Customs and Border Protection and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, along with local agencies conducting shoreline searches.

"We take into consideration wind, current, sea state, temperature, time in the water, things of that sort and we have a program that – we punch all the information into a computer," said one Coast Guard official.   

The boat's last known position before it was found capsized was about 5 miles northeast of Locust Point, according to secondary GPS sent from a cell phone around 7 p.m. on April 16. The group's truck and boat trailer were found at the Locust Point boat ramp.

The people on board the missing boat were fishing between Green Island and Rattlesnake Island, and called to say they were headed back in April 16 around 6 p.m.

The search for the boat and fishermen began around 1:30 the next morning. Bill Staiger, with the Division of Watercraft, says they calculate wind, current, sea state, temperature, time and water to best create a search grid.

"Obviously, with the cold water, time is of the essence. So that's why we're here trying to support the family to get as many assets out there as possible, so we can have a successful conclusion to this," said Staiger.

Staiger says that millions of boaters go out on Lake Erie each year. He suggests wearing a life jacket, having a float plan, knowing the weather and knowing your limitations.

Family members are still patiently waiting for answers. Officials say not knowing is the hardest part of the search for them. The family is asking for privacy at this time.

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