Body of missing boater found.

September 23, 2019

Body of missing boater found.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

HAMLIN TOWNSHIP — Search crews from Mason County Sheriff’s Office found the body of Robert J. Conklin early Monday evening, according to Mason County Undersheriff Derrek Wilson.

Wilson said Conklin’s body was located in the narrows of Hamlin Lake about 150 yards off the shore in 7-feet of water. A member of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office dive team was able to retrieve the body at 7:10 p.m.

The search for the 54-year-old West Olive man began Saturday, Sept. 21, shortly after he was reported missing. Divers, marine patrol officers, and ground crews, searched for Conklin until dark on Saturday, returned and searched all day Sunday and then again Monday.

Conklin, a native of Custer, went missing about 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in the narrows of the lake, which divides the upper and lower portions of the lake, after falling out of his 18-feet long bass style boat.

The incident happened in water that was 6- to 8-feet deep, but recovery efforts had been hampered by large weed beds under the surface of the water, which caused imaging issues with the underwater equipment.  In addition, Sunday’s heavy rains created water runoff into Hamlin Lake. “This coupled with thick algae on the water’s surface caused visibility issues for divers, who reported only a few inches of visibility,” Sheriff Kim Cole said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert’s family and loved ones during this tragic time,” Cole said. “This has been a tragic summer on our area lakes and we are happy to bring closure to Robert’s family and friends. These incidents are long and tiring for our emergency responders and I once again commend them for all that they do for our community. We are grateful for our partner agencies and local businesses that provided assistance.”

Cole said area businesses that provided support included The Y Country Store, Jimmy John’s, Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders, Meijer, and McDonald’s.

Agencies that particpated in the search and recovery efforts included Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Oceana County Sheriff’s Office, Ludington Police Department, Ludington State Park personnel, U.S. Coast Guard Air Support, Mason County Emergency Management, Pentwater Police Department, Mason County Victim’s Assistance Unit, Hamlin Township Fire Department, Free Soil/Meade Fire Department, Grant Township Fire Department, Custer Fire Department, Scottville Fire Department, Ludington Fire Department, Life EMS, Mason-Oceana 911, and the sheriff’s office’s dive unit and marine patrol.

Cole said an autopsy will be conducted later in the week.

Conklin went to Mason County Eastern High School.

The drowning marks the fifth to occur in Mason County this year, which included three in Lake Michigan and one on Gun Lake in Sherman Township.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.