Rangers at Moraine State Park say raccoon hunter Brian Cornetti probably drowned in Lake Arthur while trying to retrieve the boat he used to hunt the animals at night.
Rick Carson, supervisor of the rangers, said Mr. Cornetti, 54, of Prospect had just put his boat in the water Friday night when it apparently drifted away from the ramp, probably because of strong winds.
He shed his heavy clothing and boots and jumped in after it, from all appearances, and was likely overcome by the cold water.
"The water temperature was 54 degrees," said Mr. Carson, a former raccoon hunter himself who had known Mr. Cornetti for 20 years and saw him often at the park. "He would have been able to swim for a few minutes. But in all likelihood, he drowned."
Rangers found his pants, shirt, jacket, long underwear and boots on the dock and his coon dog, Ringo, in a cage in his pickup truck.
Most likely, Mr. Cornetti was about to go back to the truck to retrieve Ringo when he saw the boat drifting away and went in after it to climb aboard.
Volunteer divers searched the lake over the weekend and rangers probed the water with sonar. They also deployed cadaver dogs and walked the woods and shoreline in case Mr. Cornetti made it ashore.
Mr. Cornetti, a warehouse worker at the Youth Development Center in New Castle, lived near the lake with his wife, Valerie, and hunted raccoons to sell their pelts.
The animals are nocturnal and move down to the water at night to fish along the shore. Several times a week, Mr. Cornetti would take his boat out with his dog and spot them with a flashlight. Then he would motor the boat ashore, where his dog would tree the raccoons so he could shoot them with a .22 rifle.
He took them home and skinned them, selling the pelts to various processing companies -- the nearest one is in Beaver County -- which typically pay $20 or so for a good pelt.
The market is limited in the U.S., but it's much larger in countries such as Germany and China, where the pelts are used to make fur trim for coats.
Mr. Carson said Mr. Cornetti was an experienced boater and hunter and in good physical condition at about 160 pounds. He could swim well, but the frigid water would have sapped his strength quickly.
Rangers found a life jacket in the boat along with a rifle.neigh_north
Torsten Ove can be reached at email@example.com or 412-231-0132.