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Published: Friday, 10/23/2009

Boater is presumed dead


MARBLEHEAD, Ohio - The operator of an empty fishing boat found in Lake Erie between the mainland and Middle Sister Island is presumed drowned, authorities said Thursday.

Gerry Geyer, 46, of Fremont was apparently fishing near Middle Sister Island when he presumably went overboard and drowned, said John Wisse, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman in Columbus.

Mr. Geyer was identified from the boat registration after his 17-foot aluminum-hulled vessel was spotted from a Canadian fishing vessel in Canadian waters about 10 a.m. Wednesday, Mr. Wisse said.

The search for Mr. Geyer began about 10:40 a.m. after rescuers found items in the boat - including keys in the ignition - that suggested it was recently occupied, said Senior Chief Greg Zerfass, of the Coast Guard's Marblehead station.

Joining in the search were vessels from the Coast Guard's Marblehead and Toledo stations, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the ODNR's division of watercraft. Also participating were a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and a Canadian C-130 aircraft.

The near-11-hour search was called off about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday after the rescuers had searched an area of about 300 square miles of southern Lake Erie, according to the guard.

"The Coast Guard suspend a search and rescue case with great care and deliberation after considering the search area saturation, the probability of detection, the probability of survival, and other cases that are unique to each case," according to a statement released by Lt. Wade Hedinger, an agency spokesman.

Mr. Wisse said factors that determined the search area in Mr. Geyer's case included the drift and winds.

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