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UPDATED: Two bodies found, search called off for two men

Alex Green • Apr 18, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Friday's Full Story

Search crews on Thursday recovered the bodies of a woman and her niece miles off the Lake Erie shore, and the search was called off for two men who had been with them Wednesday night when their boat capsized.  The search resumed today.

The bodies of Amy Santus, 33, of Perrysburg, and Paige Widmer, 16, whose hometown was not immediately known, were located several miles off shore — one near the Toussaint Reef, the other near Niagra Reef, Ottawa County officials said. 

Santus, Widmer and two men were on a boat that left the Locust Point boat ramp sometime Wednesday. Their truck and boat trailer were found at the boat ramp, which is near Davis-Besse. 

A family member called the U.S. Coast Guard at about 2 a.m. Thursday because the group failed to return from the fishing trip, authorities said.   

Coast Guard crews launched a search and, at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, located the anglers’ 21-foot boat about six miles north of Locust Point, near the Toussaint Reef. The vessel was partially submerged and unoccupied, authorities said. 

The first body was located at 9:45 a.m. and the second body was found shortly thereafter. Both women were wearing life jackets, authorities said, although it’s unclear if the missing men were also wearing life jackets. 

Authorities have not released the identifies of the two missing men.  

Coast Guard crews plan to continue leading the search efforts, with help from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft, the Canadian Coast Guard and the U.S. Border Patrol.

The search for the missing men remains the most important aspect of the operation, said Bill Staiger, northern region manager for the Division of Watercraft. 

“All of our boats out there are trying to find the victims,” Staiger said during a press conference Thursday at Turtle Point Marina. “We haven’t gotten into what caused it.”

While it’s still unclear what caused the boat to crash, Staiger noted that shoals are a prominent feature in that part of the lake, although he could not say if that may have been a factor.

Ottawa County Sheriff Stephen Levorchick said he has already talked to some of the victims’ family members.

“They’re hopeful,” he said of relatives of the two missing men. “You always expect survivors.”

By Thursday afternoon, search crews had already scoured more than 200 square miles of lake, according to Coast Guard officials.

Among the vessels involved in the search are a 45-foot Coast Guard vessel from the Marblehead station and a 25-foot vessel from the Toledo station. The Canadian Coast Guard has also employed a military transport aircraft to search the waters from above. 

Ottawa County has just under 100 miles of Lake Erie shoreline.

“It’s the largest volume of lake in Ohio,” Levorchick said.

The tragedy offered a somber note to the opening of the boating season, which is scarcely under way in most parts of the lake.  

Boaters are strongly encouraged to wear life jackets, Levorchick said. In the event of a boat crash, the chance of survival increases exponentially for people who are wearing life jackets.  


4:53 p.m. UPDATE:

The names of the women found earlier today are Paige Widmer, 16, and Amy Santus, 33, of Perrysburg.

1:53 p.m. UPDATE:

Two bodies were found in the water, one is an unidentified 16-year-old girl found near the Niagara reef. The other body is a woman in her 30's. Both females were wearing lifejackets. The boat was found near the Toussaint Reef at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. The Coast Guard is still looking for two unidentified males.

12:03 p.m. UPDATE: A release from the United State Coast Guard — 

CLEVELAND — U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews continue to search for three people in the water in Lake Erie, Thursday, after one body was recovered and a boat was found five miles northeast of Locust Point, Ohio.

The Coast Guard is not releasing the names of the missing people or the recovered individual at the request of the families.

Coast Guard crews investigated a report of a second body in the water but found it was a floating log.

The search commenced at 2 a.m. after a watchstander at Sector Detroit received a report that a fishing group was overdue on returning home.

The boat was discovered on Toussaint Reef, approximately five miles northeast of Locust Point. The group's truck and boat trailer were found at the Locust Point boat ramp.

Coast Guard crews from Stations Marblehead and Toledo and Air Station Detroit are receiving 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, and local agencies conducting shoreline searches. A towing company has been cleared to tow the boat.

10:30 a.m. UPDATE:

The U.S. Coast Guard found a 21-foot tracker boat partially submerged west of the Lake Erie islands near Davis-Besse earlier this morning.

Four boaters were last seen around 6 p.m. yesterday, as the Coast Guard continues to search for these people, Lt. Christopher Yaw of the Ninth Coast Guard District said.

He said he does not have information on the boaters' potential well-being. "Anything else would be speculation at this point, we try stay away from that," he said.

The anglers set out from Carroll Township Wednesday evening and were fishing around South Bass Island, Yaw said.

They were expected to return Wednesday night. A family informed the Coast Guard when they did not.

Yaw said the crews will be out there all day if the search does not yield results.

Their search includes Coast Guard vessels from both Toledo and Marblehead units, local police agencies and a helicopter out of Detroit.

Previous Associated Press Story:

Search teams on Lake Erie are looking for three or four people after finding a partially submerged boat off the Ohio shoreline.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the boat was located Thursday morning between Toledo and Cleveland.

Coast Guard boats and helicopters began searching the area near Ohio's South Bass Island overnight after receiving a report about overdue fishermen.

Check back here for more updates as they become available

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