Witnesses say man jumped from freighter into Lake Michigan; Badger assists with search.

August 23, 2015

The S.S. Badger cruises south, past the Ludington State Park beach house Sunday night, a rare sight to see. The Badger was assisting with the search of a man who was reported to have gone overboard from a passing-by freighter.

UPDATED: A man onboard a freighter jumped off the ship into Lake Michigan early Sunday morning. As a result, the Coast Guard and several vessels, including the SS Badger, searched for the man, west of Big Sable Point.

Personnel from U.S. Coast Guard Station Manistee responded to a call from the Stewart J. Cort around 2 a.m. to the area about 3 to 4 miles offshore of Big Sable Point, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crew members witnessed the man climb over the rail and jump from the vessel, a Coast Guard press release stated. The crew members immediately deployed three life rings and notified the navigation bridge. The vessel turned and began a systematic search for the man. Due to conditions at the time and the impending weather forecast, the decision was made not to deploy the vessel’s small workboat. The motor vessels Samuel D. Champlain, Joyce L. Van Encevort and Vikingbank were also in the area also began to assist with the search.

Sunday night, the Badger traveled from Manitowoc, Wisconsin towards Big Sable Point, the area where a man was reported overboard from the freighter Strwart J. Cort early Sunday morning, according to Lake Michigan Carferry Spokeswoman Terri Brown.

The coast guard used its 45-foot response boat along with helicopter crews from Air Facility Muskegon and Air Station Traverse City. The Coast Guard completed a total of 11 different searches covering 76 square nautical miles. Additionally, multiple commercial vessels in the area participated in the search efforts. The search was suspended due to the weather, however the Badger changed course to conduct a search of the area.

Because the incident happened within the navigational boundaries of Mason County, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. Three detectives and a deputy from MCSO will be investigating the incident, according to Sheriff Kim Cole. Detectives will travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to interview the 20-plus member Monday.

The man, who was wearing blue jeans and a bright yellow shirt, was not wearing a lifejacket. Cole said detectives want to find out what led up to the time when the man jumped off the ship. His name, age and job tiltle were not available.

The Cort is a 989-foot, U.S.-flagged freighter that was built in 1971 and is owned by the Interlake Steamship Company. It is currently traveling from Burns Harbor, Indiana to Supeior, Wisconsin.

Forecasted weather for the search area include a small-craft advisory in effect Monday evening with 20-25 knot winds veering west to 30 knots. Showers and thunderstorms are likely until midday and waves range from 3-5 feet.

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