Cause unknown in Lake Erie drowning

PORT CLINTON The identity of a Columbus man who drowned in Lake Erie near Camp Perry Saturday aftern
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

PORT CLINTON

The identity of a Columbus man who drowned in Lake Erie near Camp Perry Saturday afternoon has been confirmed.

But what caused him to drown in the first place is still a mystery, according to investigators from the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Earl Evans, 53, of Columbus was visiting Camp Perry over the weekend and decided to go on a boating trip with two Camp Perry neighbors.

Evans and two other men were about six miles out in Lake Erie off the coast of Port Clinton during a hot Saturday afternoon when Evans decided to go for a swim to cool off.

The Ottawa County Sheriff's office on Saturday reported Evans went into the water to check on the boat's propeller, but state investigators provided updated information Sunday.

Evans' two boating companions told investigators he dove into the water, but never resurfaced.

"They jumped in to look for him," said Sandusky ODNR Watercraft Officer Specialist Dave Goodwin. "They swam around and couldn't find him. A good samaritan near by radioed the Coast Guard."

The Coast Guard responded at 4:40 p.m. with boats, a helicopter and an Ottawa County Dive crew.

They reached the area within one hour and the dive crew located and retrieved Evans' body from the bottom of Lake Erie within 20 minutes of their arrival.

Coast Guard officials said the area of the lake where Evans' body was found is about 22 feet deep.

Goodwin said Evans body showed no signs of external injuries. He said Goodwin had a reputation for being an excellent swimmer and initial investigations conclude he was in good health.

"There was nothing pre-existing that we knew of at that time," he said.

Goodwin, who has investigated a number of drowning incidents, said its typical for a person's body to sink to the bottom of Lake Erie directly below the point where they drowned.

"It (the body) is not effected by the waves of Lake Erie," he said. "As the body decomposes, gases are released. Then it floats back up."

Goodwin said drownings with mysterious circumstances such as Evans are common.

He said one possible cause is a person's reflex reaction to cold water, which can cause one to gasp and inhale from the shock and accidentally ingest water, leading to panic and in some cases drowning.

"That could be a possibility," he said. "Who knows at this point. We have an investigator coming in tomorrow to get started on it."

Goodwin said the Ottawa County Coroner will perform a toxicology test on Evans and an official cause of death may not be announced until a few weeks later.

He said it is unclear whether or not Evans was intoxicated, but there was alcohol found on his boat.

Evans is survived by at least one daughter, believed to be age 30, Goodwin said.