September 3, 2014

Elyria
Clear
66°F
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Three men missing on Lake Erie

VERMILION — The U.S. Coast Guard has been searching a more than 2,000-square-mile swath of Lake Erie for three Wooster boaters who were last heard from Sunday night.

But time is not on the side of the boaters or the Coast Guard, which has used its own helicopters and boats and a Canadian Coast Guard C-130 plane to scour an area stretching from Pelee Island to Cleveland for the men and their 21-foot aluminum power boat, named the Resby

Ferguson said that meant the search could reasonably be called off at nightfall Tuesday, but he planned to search through the night and into today

“I feel I owe it to (the families) to exhaust all possibilities,” he said

The three men — Christopher Crowner, Dan Crowner and Cazz Monchilov — are all in their 40s and, according to their families, skilled boaters and outdoorsmen, Ferguson said

Bill McCarthy, port operations manager in Vermilion, said the men had left the Vermilion public boat ramp between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Sunday. Their truck and trailer were still in the parking lot Tuesday

McCarthy said he’d seen the men throughout the summer, and they seemed to go out on the lake once or twice a week. But he said he didn’t know them well, given the large number of people who launch their boats from the boat ramp every day

Exactly what happened to the boat and its three occupants is a mystery, Ferguson said. The weather was clear, and waves never reached more than about two feet, according to the Coast Guard’s logs

A tug boat making a run from the islands to Cleveland reported that it had found debris — including four lifejackets, carpeting and wood — in between the tug and the barge it was pushing, but Ferguson couldn’t say if it was from the Wooster men’s boat

The tug, named the Cleveland, passed through a dumping area popular with fishermen about 11 miles north of Vermilion that matched the description of where the men had reportedly moored their boat for the night. But the debris wasn’t found until the tug had reached Avon Point several miles away, and Ferguson said he wouldn’t speculate on whether the tug boat and barge had struck the missing boat

When Monchilov talked with his daughter Sunday, he told her they had dropped anchor in a secluded spot

“Her dad was commenting that the only thing he could hear was the water lapping on the boat,” Ferguson said

Dropping anchor in the middle of the lake isn’t the safest thing to do, Ferguson said, but he acknowledged that it’s a common practice among veteran boaters. McCarthy said the men had stayed out on the lake overnight before

Calls to the men’s cell phones went directly to voicemail, Ferguson said, but added that reception on the lake can be spotty.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

 
STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Scott Ferguson