Cadaver dog expected to join search for missing Hamlin boater.

September 23, 2019

Marine deputy Dale Goodrich heads out into Hamlin Lake for another search.

Cadaver dog expected to join search for missing Hamlin boater.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

HAMLIN TOWNSHIP — Search and recovery efforts to find the body of Robert J Conklin, 54, of West Olive continued today, three days after Conklin disappeared in Hamlin Lake. Mason County Sheriff’s Office dive team leader Deputy Adam Lamb said a cadaver dog from Michigan State Police is expected to join the search Tuesday morning.

Members of Conklin’s family gathered at Wilson Hill Park where members of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office dive team have been using as a base. Divers began their search at 6:30 a.m. and planned to continue searching until dusk, just as they did on Sunday as well.

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. On Sunday, Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said his office is presuming that Conklin drowned 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 have been hampered by large weed beds under the surface of the water, which has 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, is causing visibility issues for divers, who report only a few inches of visibility,” Cole said.

The MSP cadaver dog is capable of smelling into the water and detecting human remains, sometimes over 40 feet deep, Lamb said. The dog will begin biting the water when it makes a detection. The boat driver will then move until the dog detects again and basically triangulate the area, Lamb said. 

Deputies were assisted today from ground search crews from Grant Township Fire Department, Free Soil/Meade Fire Department, and Hamlin Township Fire Department, who searched the shoreline of the lake.

Conklin was with a female who a passerby was able to rescue Saturday. Emergency personnel were called to the lake at 1:05 p.m. Cole said Conklin was not wearing a life jacket and is not a resident of Mason County.

Cole said the two people fell overboard but it is unclear how they fell. A witness told MCP that she had seen a man hanging onto the side of a boat in that vicinity in the early afternoon, but the man nor woman had given no indication that anything was wrong.

Wilson Hill Park remains closed during the search operation. 

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