Coast Guard: 2 Missing Boaters Found Dead

CHARLEVOIX (WWJ) – Two boaters missing on Lake Michigan have been found dead.

Coast Guard officials say divers have recovered the bodies of the two, missing for about eight hours since their boat flipped during the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race. They were taken by EMS to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Race to Mackinac officials said in a statement that the two crew members were 51-year-old skipper Mark Morley and 41-year-old Suzanne Bickel, both of Saginaw. They were both race veterans.

The sailboat WingNuts — based in Saginaw — had capsized near west of Charlevoix. Eight people from WingNuts went into the water, and six were recovered. The Coast Guard says 4- to 6-foot waves were reported, and air and water temperatures were in the low 70s.

Meanwhile, the father of one of the rescued crew members is speaking to WWJ. Chip Cummings, of Rockford, says he’s just relieved to know his 16-year-old son C.J. is Okay and explains how he felt when he got the call.

“It’s one thing to get a phone call in the middle of the night, you know, saying that there’s a problem,” Cummings said. “But, then not knowing for hours, uh, I didn’t actually get a chance to speak with him until about 6:00 this morning, so for 5 1/2 hours, while they were … trying to get him back to shore and the 5 other crew members there really, there were no communications.”

The eight on board were sailing in 40 to 50 mile wind gusts for a race from Chicago to Mackinac Island when they started taking on water. Six were wearing life preservers and were pulled to safety. Two others are still missing.

Chip Cummings, whose 16-year-old son was rescued, speaking live on WWJ, says the Coast Guard is conducting a full-blown search but adds that the sail boat crew was prepared for the bad weather.

“He said everything was going fine up until the wind picked up,” Cummings said. “They knew the storm was coming … the sails were down, the wind just caught it in the right position and flipped it over.”

This was his son’s first race — but he’s an avid sailor.

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