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Survivor of deadly fishing trip: 'Whole world fell apart'

WZZM-TV • Aug 16, 2016 at 11:30 AM

MEARS — The body of missing fisherman Steve Bruce has been located after a deadly fishing trip this past Sunday, Aug. 14, in Lake Michigan. 

WZZM-TV’s Jon Mills reports the Michigan State Police dive team retrieved the body Thursday. Large waves on Lake Michigan made it a difficult recovery.


Coast Guard investigators say three men went out in a boat around 9:30 p.m. Sunday from Little Sable Point to go fishing. At some point, two of them fell off the vessel.

The Coast Guard says one man was found dead — 53-year-old Brian Waslusky — and the search continued for a second person, 62-year-old Bruce, according to the Oceana County Sheriff's Department.

The third man, Russell Pierce, was OK. All three are from the Hart area.

Pierce told police he and his friends were on Bruce's 23-foot fishing boat, and they were fighting a big fish. Pierce said Waslusky made an attempt to net the fish and dropped the net. When the net was dropped, Bruce went in the lake after the fish and net.

Waslusky jumped in after him, Pierce told police. Waslusky immediately began to struggle and so did Bruce.

Coast Guard crews from Ludington and Muskegon were involved in the search along with other agencies, including sheriff's departments in Oceana and Mason counties. In addition to boats on the water, a Coast Guard helicopter is involved in the search

Pierce told Mills it was only his second time fishing on the Big Lake. Bruce offered to take Pierce and Waslusky out on the lake because they had cleaned his boat earlier in the year.

Bruce is a well-known Hart area realtor and landlord.

"Gracious, humble, and community driven, describe the Steve we see daily," said Sue Payne, an associated Broker at Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt, Bruce's employer, in an email.

"He has been instrumental in the development and progress in our community through real estate and through community service from being an active member of our local board of Realtors, the Hart Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, The Hart Main Street organization not to mention anything any of us every ask of him."

Pierce says after the net flipped over the boat, Bruce went in after it.

"Steve ran to the back of the boat and jumped in to try and get it and the boat was going forward," Pierce said.

Pierce says because Bruce was struggling in the water, Waslusky jumped into the water. He, too, began to struggle to stay above the water.

"The whole world fell apart, the biggest nightmare ever, to watch," Pierce said.

Men on another boat a short distance away came over and recovered the body of Waslusky. He was found near the surface of the water. Multiple marine units and the Coast Guard searched late into the night on Sunday for Bruce.

Investigators are calling the event accidental, but a full investigation into what happen will be completed by the Oceana County Sheriff's Office.

Waslusky and Bruce were not wearing life jackets. 

Investigators say wave conditions on the lake Sunday night were calm and did not play a role in either man going overboard.

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