The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft has called off its search and recovery efforts for the two fishermen who disappeared on the William H. Harsha Lake in East Fork State Park earlier this month.
Seventy-four-year-old Charles E. Chippendale and his 38-year-old son Scott Chippendale, both from Lebanon in Warren County, are now presumed to have drowned after falling out of their 19-foot 1995 Ranger Bass fishing boat at approximately 11:45 a.m. April 2.
Since there were reportedly no witnesses to the accident, the search and recovery efforts were extremely difficult, said ODNR Division of Watercraft chief Michael Quinn.
“Our watercraft and state parks staff have been joined by other law enforcement agency officers and professional searchers using sophisticated equipment (including sonar) in the attempt each day to successfully locate and recover the victims since the incident occurred,” Quinn said in a media released statement.
After receiving a 911 emergency call concerning an unmanned power boat going around in circles on the lake and a labrador retriever dog swimming in the water near the north shore boat ramp shortly after noon on April 2, the Division of Watercraft and the Division of Parks and Recreation responded, got the boat under control, removed it from the water and impounded it for further investigation, and commenced the search for the two missing boaters.
The men were never located, but the search did turn up an old fishing pole and a jacket from the boat.
At this time, there has been no official word as to what could have caused the two men to fall out of the boat and to have presumably drowned. ODNR Division of Watercraft spokesperson Karen Muench said that the initial investigation showed that the boat’s steering may have been compromised in some way.
“A preliminary investigation on the vessel has shown that when you turn the steering wheel, the outboard motor does not move in the same direction as the steering column, so it may have been a steering problem, but this is still under investigation,” said Muench.
No alcohol of any kind was found on the boat and the life-jackets were on the boat but stored away in a compartment.
Despite a three and a half week search of the 2,160 acre Clermont County lake, no sign of the two men has been found; the search for them was called off April 24.
Quinn said that the victim’s family has been provided daily updates on the search and recovery efforts.
Though the official search has now been called off, regular scheduled patrols by state watercraft and park officers will continue to include a focus on recovering the bodies of the victims.