CONNEAUT — A normal charter fishing trip turned into a life-saving mission on Saturday as Corky Erdman and his four customers were fishing on Lake Erie.
The mission was successful for three Pennsylvania men but a fourth perished after a boat capsized, according to information provided through a press release by Ohio Department of Natural Resources Outreach and Media Specialist Maureen Kocot.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investigating the boating incident that happened around 9:45 a.m. on Saturday and stated that Raymond Burns, 58, of New Kensington, Pa., died after a failed rescue attempt.
Thomas Burns, 58, of Enon Valley, Pa., and David Harris, 65, of New Kensington, were transported to UH Conneaut Medical Center and another victim was uninjured, Kocot said.
Kocot said recovery efforts were stopped on Sunday due to severe weather but ODNR personnel were using a sonar scanner to assist in the recovery operations on Monday.
Erdman, 67, happened to see an object in the distance and eventually realized it was a capsized boat with three men hanging off the side of the boat.
He and his fishermen were able to save the three men but were unable to rescue Raymond Burns, who had become separated from the boat.
The ODNR is investigating the boating incident that happened around 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, said Kocot.
“We were out about seven or eight miles and we were trolling,” he said. “I happened to look up and saw something white in the water. I saw somebody waving and he was about three quarters of a mile away. It hit me that it was a capsized boat.”
Erdman said he had his fishermen bring their poles back into the boat and they took off to see what was happening.
He said they found three men hanging to the side of a 21-foot boat.
“It took three passes,” Erdman said of their work to rescue the three men who had been in the water for an estimated 45 minutes. After the three men were rescued, they told Erdman there was a fourth man with a life preserver who had drifted away from the boat.
Erdman said his customers were very helpful in helping pull the men into the boat.
“I looked out my portal window and I saw him (the fourth man),” Erdman said.
He said they pulled close and threw him a life raft and he was totally unresponsive.
“I was circling to come back and pull him in when I saw his arm slip from the life jacket. I watched him go down about 15 feet,” he said.
Erdman then brought the three men to Snug Harbor Bait and Tackle and the two injured men were then transported to the hospital.
Erdman said if he had known of the man separated from the boat he would have probably tried to rescue him first.
He said there were 6-foot swells on Saturday.
Erdman is not new to the rescue scene, having helped three boaters to safety after their vessel had problems in the early 1990s.
Erdman has been a charter captain for 34 years but has a great respect for the lake – having lost two cousins to swimming incidents on Lake Erie.
In addition to helping save six people on the lake, he understands being on the other end of a water rescue.
Erdman said he was swimming with family in a creek in Kane, Pa., when he was 11 years old and dropped off a ledge and couldn’t get back out.
“I couldn’t grab the ledge,” he said.
Out of nowhere a man appeared and pulled him from the water, Erdman said.
He said he will never forget the face of the man and what he was wearing will never be erased from his memory.
“I know what it feels like,” he said.