TOLEDO, Ohio (WWJ/AP) – The bodies of two of four missing boaters were recovered in western Lake Erie on Thursday, a day after the group left for an afternoon of fishing and sent pictures to relatives.
Searchers found a partially submerged boat on a reef near the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant and later spotted the bodies of a teenage girl and a woman, authorities said.
Police identified the victims, who were both wearing life jackets, as 33-year-old Amy Santus, of Perrysburg, near Toledo, and 16-year-old Paige Widmer. A hometown for Widmer was not available.
Santus and Widmer had been on the boat with two men, who remain missing.
Lt. Jillian Lamb, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit command center chief, said they were contacted by family members around 2 a.m. Thursday after the group failed to return from fishing aboard a 21-foot Tracker Boat near South Bass Island the day before.
County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said the boaters had contacted relatives on Wednesday afternoon and said they were on their way back to shore.
“They did send pictures back to family members of themselves fishing,” he said. The boaters were never heard from again.
The Coast Guard launched a large-scale cooperative search, with 25-foot and 45-foot response boats and helicopters provided by U.S. and Canadian resources. Authorities narrowed the search to an area about 30 miles east of Toledo after finding the group’s boat Thursday morning. The boaters’ truck and boat trailer were also found at a marina in Locust Point, where they headed out on the lake.
Crews had searched a combined more than 200 square nautical miles of the lake before calling off the search Thursday evening, the Coast Guard said.
“We moved heaven and earth here to try and find these folks,” Coast Guard Sector Detroit Commander Austin Ives said. “Getting assets out there to search is not the problem, it’s not the distance, it’s not the dedication — in this case, it’s survivability, it’s water temperature.”
Lamb said the group was up against usual weather conditions when they disappeared, but how long they could survive in water depends on their weight, gender and what they were wearing.
“The temperatures were cold, approximately 34 degrees, with cold water temps in the low to mid 40s. There were some small craft advisories, but no other significant weather,” Lamb said.
The Coast Guard is expected to resume searching for the two missing boaters Friday morning.
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