‘Aggressive’ search continues for fishermen missing on Lake Michigan

PORT SHELDON, Mich. (WOOD) — A search is being conducted on Lake Michigan after authorities received a call about boaters who had gone missing.

Our sister station WOOD-TV reports that Ottawa County Dispatch says they received a call around 9 a.m. Wednesday regarding some missing boaters. The U.S. Coast Guard told family members Wednesday evening that there is still hope the two boaters, Aaron Juarez and Chris Thode, are alive.

“They’re very resourceful boys. They’re strong. They know how to survive, so I’m sure that they’re out there floating somewhere and the boat probably broke down and we are going to get them home safe,” Casie Kennaugh, Thode’s girlfriend, said.

“I’m pretty concerned,” Juarez’s brother, Victor Juarez Jr., said. “He’s a survivor. … I’m keeping positive.”

Roommates Juarez, 40, and Thode, 25, of Wyoming went salmon fishing on Saturday and have not returned. No one noticed they were missing until Wednesday morning.

Cellphone records and a convenience store receipt helped investigators determine that the two arrived at Port Sheldon around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. They put their 16-foot boat into the water at Pigeon Lake, which is connected to Lake Michigan. According to the Coast Guard, the men’s truck and boat trailer were at the boat ramp at Pigeon Lake.

Searchers tell 24 Hour News 8 that drifts on Lake Michigan could have pushed the missing boaters as far north as White Lake. It’s unclear how far west they could have drifted. Winds have been strong and water temperatures are ranging between 62 and 47 degrees.

“Lake Michigan is just as big and vast as the ocean in certain spots. It’s a very, very large piece of water for a very small boat,” Senior Chief Justin Olson, the commanding officer at the Coast Guard station in Grand Haven, said.

Boats from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Marine Unit and the Coast Guard, as well as three Coast Guard helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft — one from Cape Cod and a Royal Canadian Air Force C-130 rescue plane — are helping in the search.

Searchers had covered 1,500 square miles of Lake Michigan as of early Wednesday evening, Olson told 24 Hour News 8.

“We’re going to continue the search throughout the night,” Olson said. “We’re hitting it very aggressively. So we want to throw everything we have at it right now to get the greatest probability of a detection immediately.”

“We have multiple types of sensors on the boats and the aircraft and we’ll be utilizing everything at our disposal,” he continued.

Anyone with information regarding the search is asked to call the Sector Lake Michigan command center at 414.747.7190.

“If anyone finds anything, it could be helpful to the search please call it in,” a tearful Renee Palermo, Juarez’s sister, said. “I don’t care how small it is, it could save their lives, just knowing the location. The storms have been bad. They could have blown across to Chicago. We need everyone everywhere on all the coasts to just be observant and look out for anything that they could see.”

>>Our sister station WOOD-TV first reported this story

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