Staying safe on the water as recovery effort reaches day two on Eagle Creek Reservoir

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UPDATE: Capt. Jet Quillen with DNR said a body has been discovered. The coroner’s office is working to make a positive identification.

INDIANAPOLIS — Day two of a recovery effort is underway at the Eagle Creek Reservoir after a man was thrown from a paddleboat Wednesday.

Crews with Pike Township Fire Department stayed until 9 p.m., Wednesday night searching for the man. They continued Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m., for a quick scan using boats and sonar technology before handing the search over to the Department of Natural Resources. 

“The biggest concerns with those types of watercraft are they are manually powered and not engine propelled. So if you get in a situation where there is bad weather it takes a lot longer for you to get back into safety,” said Indiana Conservation Officer Mark Baker.

Pike Township Fire believes that’s what happened Wednesday afternoon. Shortly before 4 p.m., they responded to a call of people in the water.  

A man and a woman were on a paddleboat, as storms and winds approached the water got choppy tossing him overboard. The woman jumped in to save him but they both began sinking. Strangers nearby were able to pull her to safety but not him.

“Weather is one of the things that we preach on especially when we teach safety courses. You have to be aware of what’s coming in advance,” said Baker. 

Baker says it’s even more important when operating a non-motorized watercraft like kayaks and paddleboats.

“Some of the least sturdy or stable are going to be your stand up paddle boats where your center of gravity is very high and you can get thrown off of those if you don’t know what you’re doing. Every watercraft is individuals and specific to itself,” said Baker. 

Neither of the two was wearing life jackets, which is legal. Indiana state law only requires life jackets to be present. 

“If you got those tucked away in a compartment or tucked under some straps and stuff like that and you get thrown off suddenly it’s really not going to do you any good,” said Baker. 

Wednesday Pike Township used boats, and divers to search for him. Thursday morning they continued their search using boats and sonar technology. 

Now, DNR is conducting the search using sonar boats and divers as they focus their search on the nearest side of the marina. They say there have been some challenges while exhausting every effort.

“One of the issues that we’re dealing with right now, as I understand it, there are a lot of people who witnessed it and there are different witness statements putting it in different locations. So it’s very hard to narrow down a tight pattern,” said Baker.  

Family members have remained at the scene all day hoping and praying that there will be an end to this search sometime soon.

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