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Hunting Accident File > Safe Fishing?

NY: No leads found after second day of search for missing boater

April 23, 2012

By Gordon Block, WatertownDailyTimes.com

 HENDERSON — With the search for missing boater David M. Tuttle called off Sunday due to inclement conditions, his friend who was pulled out of the frigid waters described the ordeal when swells overtook their 18-foot boat Saturday morning on Lake Ontario.

“I couldn’t see him anymore,” said Buck Stockman, who clung to the side of the boat for more than an hour until rescuers could reach him. “Then I couldn’t hear him.”

Mr. Tuttle, 45, of Lowville, has been missing since about 9 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the boat overturned about a half-mile north of Stony Point. Rescue crews said they would continue their search today, conditions permitting. Meanwhile, an anguishing wait continued for his family, who said they would continue their own search efforts along the shoreline today regardless of the weather.

Mr. Stockman, 33, who worked with Mr. Tuttle as a custodian at Lowville Academy and Central School, said they both had talked about their love of fishing, but Saturday’s outing was the first time they fished together. In the past, he said, they had gone hunting together.

Sitting on the front porch of his Lowville home Sunday afternoon, Mr. Stockman described the ordeal of the previous day, blaming himself for what happened and calling it “the roughest thing that’s ever happened in my life.”

Despite the poor weather early Saturday, including cold weather, high winds and rain, Mr. Stockman said they joked that they had faced worse conditions elsewhere.

However, things took a turn for the worse as the boat was hit by a swell of water from the back. The pair at that point began to reel in their fishing lines.

“We said we gotta get off of here,” Mr. Stockman said.

Hit by another swell, the engine of his boat failed. A secondary motor of the boat also was not working.

“We knew we were in a bad spot,” he said.

Grabbing a radio, Mr. Stockman made a distress call. Within a few minutes of first taking on water, the boat had overturned, sending both men into the water.

Mr. Stockman, who said he cannot swim, was close enough to grab a rope tied to the bow, but Mr. Tuttle was not. Mr. Stockman said that as he clung to the boat, he watched his friend drift away. They yelled back and forth about their condition and location for about 10 minutes, until Mr. Tuttle was out of sight. His life jacket and hat were later found.

With no rescuers in sight, Mr. Stockman said, he saw a hunter from the shoreline, who yelled that he had called for help. According to rescue officials, that call from the shore helped them pinpoint the boat’s location.

With rescue crews en route, Mr. Stockman said, he struggled to stay with the boat, his multiple layers of clothes bogging him down.

“I don’t know how much longer I was going to be able to hold on,” he said.

He later was pulled from the water, after spending about an hour and a half in the lake. He was taken to Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, for treatment of hypothermia, and was released later that day.

Back home, he told of how the incident weighed on him. He said he was too distressed to go back to the lake to join the search.

“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to fear for my life or somebody else with me,” Mr. Stockman said.

He blamed himself for Mr. Tuttle’s disappearance

“It was my boat ... and I asked him to go,” Mr. Stockman said.

Mark A. Tuttle, David Tuttle’s brother and chief of operations for Lewis County Search and Rescue, said he first heard the call after responders from the town recognized his name. He said he knew his brother would be fishing that morning, as he had been invited to join on the fishing trip along with his son, but was not able to go.

“The information initially was limited,” Mark Tuttle said. “I knew his boat had capsized, and he was unaccounted for. I knew that didn’t sound good, but I was hopeful.”

Mark Tuttle was one of about 30 volunteers from Lowville, including several Tuttle family members and friends, who joined crews from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and Special Tactics and Rescue Team, along with Henderson Fire and Ambulance, to help search the water and shoreline.

Mark Tuttle said the family had been optimistic as they went about the search, and he praised the crews who came out during the search over the weekend.

“We couldn’t ask for any better response, in my opinion,” Mark Tuttle said.

He expressed concern about the discovery of his brother’s personal flotation device and hat, which was camouflaged and had the logo of the Waite Toyota dealership, that were found in the water near where the boat overturned.

“It’s the unknown that’s the most disheartening in this moment,” Mr. Tuttle said.
He described his brother as a family man and an outdoorsman who was always thinking about others first.

“He would do anything for anyone,” Mark Tuttle said.

David Tuttle and his wife, Sheryl, have two children, Skyler and Dana. Mark Tuttle said he was speaking for the family when he said they did not blame Mr. Stockman for David Tuttle’s disappearance.

“It was a very unfortunate circumstance ... an accident,” Mark Tuttle said. “We certainly don’t hold him responsible.”

With less than accommodating conditions, the search effort Sunday ended on the water about 1 p.m. and on land about 3 p.m., according to a release from the sheriff’s department.

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