Share this article

print logo

Kayaker dies in Lake Ontario; twin, friend made it to shore

The third kayaker missing on Lake Ontario was found dead Tuesday, State Police said.

The body of Jacob McCormick, 21, was found near Point Breeze in Orleans County shortly before 8:50 a.m. by the U.S. Coast Guard several hours after his twin brother, Nathaniel McCormick, and a good friend, Joseph Williams, 18, were found alive, also near the Point Breeze area.

The three, who lived in the Altoona, Pa., area, had been visiting the McCormicks' grandparents in Barker.

Family mourns kayaker who died paddling with twin on Lake Ontario

Pastor Ronald R. Anderson of Calvary Baptist Church in Altoona identified the three young men and their families, noting the young men and their families are all active in their church in Altoona.

The McCormicks had worked locally for the past three summers doing maintenance at the Circle C Ranch in Delevan, a Christian campground about 46 miles southeast of Buffalo in Cattaraugus County.

Circle C Ranch director Wayne Aarum said Jacob McCormick met his wife there, the former Johanna Carls of Angelica. They married at the camp just one year ago, said Aarum.

The twins are the sons of Timothy and Stacie McCormick of Duncansville, Pa., and were graduates of Blair County Christian School in Duncansville, said Anderson.

"These were outstanding young men, all three of them. Just quality young men," said Anderson."The three young men were active and involved in our youth group and ministry as youth leaders."

"Jacob is going to be very dearly missed," said Anderson.

He said an informal prayer service and counseling will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Altoona church for friends and family. He said youth pastors also have been sent to the Barker area, where other members of the McCormick family live.

Family members wait for news Tuesday morning with police on the Lake Ontario shore. (Nancy Fischer/Buffalo News)

Anderson called them model young men who pitched in whenever they were needed, from working on projects in the church to trimming grass.

He said the twins were very close.

Aarum said the McCormick brothers worked tirelessly at the horseback riding Christian camp in the summers, a camp they attended as youth and then returned to as summer help when they grew older. The brothers both enjoyed working on cars and being mechanics in their free time.

"They are kind of legends here," said Aarum of the twins. "Their work ethic is incredible."

Aarum said the boys are "so physically fit" that it was a surprise to hear Jacob did not make it to the shore of Lake Ontario alive.

Orleans County sheriff's deputies said they found Nathaniel McCormick and Joseph Williams alive just before 6 a.m. Tuesday. The two had swum ashore to Point Breeze, then went to a house. Deputies brought them to a command center at Golden Hill State Park boat launch in Barker while they continued to search for Jacob.

The three had been visiting the twins' grandparents in Barker, with their 18-year-old friend, State Police Lt. Clyde Doty said. They were reported missing to the Somerset Police Department at about 5:30 p.m. Monday after they left Golden Hill State Park and were last seen paddling offshore into the lake at about noon.

Somerset Police Chief John Yotter said crews searched through the night. He said the two survivors were able to make it to shore sometime this morning and were able to start walking until a resident found them and called police.

"They were wet and cold, but they seemed OK," added Yotter.

The lake "got pretty choppy," Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour said about conditions Monday. Then a line of strong thunderstorms and heavy rain swept over the region Monday night and into Tuesday. Voutour said that the windy and stormy weather meant emergency crews were unable to search by helicopter.

One of the 21-year-old twins had swamped his boat in the stormy weather on Monday, Doty said.

He said it was Jacob McCormick who had offered to try to get to shore and get help.

The kayakers were described as three males in green, red and blue kayaks, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which was aiding in the search. The Coast Guard said they were wearing life vests but had left their cellphones in their vehicle, which was parked at the park.

Chief Thomas Johnson, officer in charge of the Coast Guard Station Niagara, said one one of their coast guard response boats found the body in the water, deceased, two miles east of Point Breeze, about 1,400 yards offshore. He said the deceased man was wearing a life jacket.

Doty said the investigation will continue and will be investigated as an unattended death.

Johnson said none of the men were found with their kayaks and the kayaks were still missing on Tuesday morning.

"The weather was challenging yesterday," said Johnson. "I believe the National Weather Service did have a small craft advisory in effect."

He said kayaking is a popular sport in all the Great Lakes, but it can be hazardous and kayakers need to be prepared.

"You need to file a float plan with your family, have some means of communications and make sure you are wearing your life jacket. If you are out past sunset there are additional safety concerns that you should be aware of, including having some type of signaling devices on board," said Thomas.

Thomas said the three did not have any signaling devices with them.

Multiple Coast Guard stations assisted in the search, including teams from Rochester and air station Detroit, as well as the Niagara County Sheriff's Department, State Parks Police, Somerset Police and Olcott and Barker volunteer fire departments. There was also support from the Canadian Coast Guard cutter and aircraft.

"The search went on throughout the night. It was a very challenging search," added Johnson. "It was a very severe storm that went through and we were unable to have aircraft in the search area so we maximized our resources on the surface and as soon as the weather allowed, aircraft began arriving on the scene."

Correction: A previous version of this story reported the third missing kayaker had been found alive.

Story topics: / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment