By WARREN DILLAWAY - firstname.lastname@example.org
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
More than 70 people conducted an exhaustive search for the body of a 13-year-old boy presumed drowned following a Friday evening swimming incident in Lake Erie, said Saybrook Township Fire Chief John Jyurovat and Petty Officer Levi Read of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Jyurovat said the search, which began around 8 p.m. Friday, continued late into the night on Friday and escalated again Saturday morning with local rescuers.
Read said the U.S. Coast Guard has conducted a non-stop search from several vessels since Friday evening. He said the search will continue throughout the night and will include a seven-member crew on a C130 plane, called from North Carolina, that uses infrared technology specifically for this purpose.
“The crews will have night vision goggles,” Read said.
Jyurovat said fire departments and ambulance workers from across the region participated in the hunt that became a recovery mission late Friday evening.
While Read and Jyurovat said the name of the missing boy would not be released at this time, a vigil of hope for 13-year-old Jermaine Marcus Zirkle, of Madison Township, was held Saturday night at Madison Village Square.
Jyurovat said a rescue is obviously the goal of every mission, but after a period of time it becomes a recovery mission. He said that designation was made on Friday evening.
Jyurovat said working hard to find the body is important to give the family some closure and resolution to a terrible tragedy.
Jyurovat said departments participating included Saybrook Fire Department, Geneva Fire Department, Northwest Ambulance District, Conneaut, Rome, Orwell fire departments, the Ohio Division of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and a Marine Assist boat.
Jyurovat said a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter participated in the search on Friday evening and an Ohio State Highway Patrol helicopter was on the way, but was turned back because of increasingly choppy waters on Lake Erie.
The immediate time after the incident was especially important because of the 2 to 4 foot waves that pounded the area near 6657 Lake Road West where the incident occurred, Jyurovat said.
“It was pretty dramatic,” he said of the waves that were larger than those usually found during rescue missions.
Jyurovat said Hillcrest Search and Rescue, Lake County Sheriff’s Dive Team and the Mentor Dive Team joined the search on Saturday morning.
Jyurovat asked that Lake Road West be closed on Saturday morning to make sure traffic wouldn’t bottleneck near the search area. He said water rescue efforts draw large crowds and could have become a danger for motorists or bystanders.
Long-term water rescue missions can be physically and emotionally draining.
“We try to circulate people. The people who were in the water last night (Friday) we try to not have them in the water (on the second day) when possible,” he said.
Read said Coast Guard officials were told several children were swimming in Lake Erie under adult supervision when the incident occurred. He said the details of what happened is unclear at this time.