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Autopsies show 2 women found in Lake Erie died of drowning, no sign of injury or hypothermia

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    Boats off the coast of Carroll Township in Ottawa County Thursday near the area from which the boaters are departed.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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  • Widmer-Santus

    Widmer, left, and Santus.



OAK HARBOR, Ohio — Autopsies performed today on two women whose bodies were found Thursday in Lake Erie showed that both died of drowning, said Ottawa County Coroner Dr. Daniel Cadigan.

Dr. Cadigan said there was no evidence that hypothermia was a contributing factor in either the death of Amy Santus or Paige Widmer; 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.

Two men who were part of a fishing trip on Lake Erie in western Ottawa County are still missing.  The trip ended in tragedy when the 21-foot fishing boat was found submerged off Locust Point. 

Authorities called off the search at 4 p.m. today and suspended it pending any new developments.

Officials with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were back on the water shortly after dawn today looking for Bryan Huff, 32, of Rossford, and Andrew Rose, 33, of Maumee.


Widmer, left, and Santus.


The bodies of Ms. Santus, 33, of Perrysburg Township and Miss Widmer, 16, of Pelion, S.C., were recovered from the lake waters the day before.

Today, about half a dozen family members and friends returned to Turtle Point Marina — where Mr. Huff launched his Bass Tracker vessel Wednesday — to await news and hope for the best. 

Bryan Huff's father, Ralph Huff of Rossford, said there was no visible accident or collision, and so authorities still are trying to determine what happened.

"I just want to get my boy home," Mr. Huff said, breaking down into tears.

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. 

"My boy was very experienced. He lived on the lake; he was a hunter and fishermen," the elder Mr. Huff said.

Authorities said they expected to remain on the water searching until late this afternoon.

Chad German, area supervisor with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said two boats, one from the state and another from the sheriff's department, were involved in today's search. The focus is in the reef complex area between what's known as the Crane Creek Reef and the Toussaint Reef.

Mr. German 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 ultimately capsizing. The boat plug was not in use, a sign that the incident happened without notice. Life jackets also were found on board.

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

According to national statistics, Mr. German said 90 percent of all fatalities on the water involve people who fall overboard unexpectedly.

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