Search continues for bodies in Lake Erie

Authorities puzzled about sinking cause

OAK HARBOR, Ohio -- Authorities are still trying to determine why a fishing boat became submerged this week off Locust Point on Lake Erie, a tragedy that left two people dead and another two missing.

Ralph Huff of Rossford, Ohio, the father of Bryan Huff, one of the two men missing, said it did not appear the 21-foot fishing boat was in a collision, leaving more questions than answers.

"I just want to get my boy home," the elder Mr. Huff said, breaking down into tears. "My boy was very experienced. He lived on the lake. He was a hunter and fishermen."

Officials with the Ottawa County sheriff's office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were back on the water shortly after dawn Friday looking for the younger Mr. Huff, 32, of Rossford and Andrew Rose, 33, of Maumee, Ohio.

The bodies of Amy Santus, 33, of Perrysburg, Ohio, and Paige Widmer, 16, of Pelion, S.C., were recovered Thursday from the lake.

Ms. Santus and Miss Widmer died of drowning, according to autopsies performed by the Lucas County coroner's office, said Daniel Cadigan, the Ottawa County coroner.

Dr. Cadigan said there was no evidence that hypothermia was a contributing factor in either death, and he did not note any injuries. He also confirmed that both women were wearing life jackets and other clothing that would have kept them warm while on the boat.

It is impossible to say how long the bodies were in the water, Dr. Cadigan said.

Authorities said Thursday that given the extreme risk of hypothermia this time of year -- western Lake Erie has been ice-free for only a week now -- authorities know the odds of survival aren't good. But they said they were continuing to hold out hope one or both of the men might have survived.

Water temperatures this week were reported to be in the low 40s.

On Friday, about half a dozen family members and friends returned to Turtle Point Marina to await news and hope for the best.

Chad German, an area supervisor with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said conditions on the lake Wednesday were choppy, with 2-3 foot waves. He said those conditions could have played a role in the boat becoming partially submerged. The boat was structurally sound and life jackets and a marine radio also were found on board, he said.

There was no evidence of a collision, but Mr. German said the cause remains under investigation.

Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Mike Sigov is a reporter for The Blade.

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