Names of victims in Lake Mich. sailing race capsize released

Having completed notifications of the next of kin, as well as debriefing immediate family members regarding the details of the search, the Coast Guard has released the names of two boaters who died and six others who were rescued Monday morning in Lake Michigan. The deceased are Suzanne Bickel, 41, and Mark Morley, 51, both of Saginaw. Rescued were Christopher Cummings, 16; John Dent, 50; Stan Dent, 51; Peter Morley, 47; Stewart Morley, 15; and Lee Purcell, 46.
Anonymous
Jul 19, 2011

 

They were the crew of the 35-foot Wingnuts, which was participating in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac race on Lake Michigan. The boat capsized around midnight Sunday during a fierce storm about 13 miles northwest of Charlevoix.

The Coast Guard received initial notification from a private company that monitors personal locator beacons, reporting that two PLBs aboard the sailing vessel Wingnuts had been activated. Radio watchstanders at Coast Guard Station Charlevoix established communications with the sailing vessel Sociable, who were assisting with the coordination of a search by other responding sailing vessels in the vicinity. The crew of the Sociable pulled six of the eight crewmembers from the Wingnuts out of the water.

A rescue crew aboard a 41-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Charlevoix arrived on scene and located the capsized sailing vessel. Crewmembers knocked on the hull of the vessel in an attempt to discern whether or not people were trapped inside. Receiving no response from inside the vessel, the rescue crew began their initial search pattern.

A crew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City also began searching.

The Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw arrived on the scene to assume the role of on-scene commander and coordinate ongoing search efforts. Search-and-rescue coordinators at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie contacted Charlevoix County authorities to request dive team support. The helicopter crew transported the dive team to the Mackinaw, which was used as the dive platform.

At 8:44 a.m. Monday, the dive team located the two boaters unresponsive in the vicinity of the capsized boat. They were transported to shore and turned over to a medical examiner, who pronounced them dead at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Survivors said they’re heartbroken that their skipper and another crew member died, but are grateful to their rescuers.

In a statement Monday, the survivors said they knew the storm was coming. They had dropped the main sail and clipped on their safety lines, but their boat was knocked over by a 75-mph gust. The survivors said they unfastened their lines, clung to the overturned hull and signaled for help.

— From Associated Press and U.S. Coast Guard reports

 

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