Former Assistant U.S. attorney George C. Burgasser spent Sunday evening on his son's boat docked at Smith Boys marina in North Tonawanda.
Then he disappeared.
Police said his son, who was below deck, heard a sound. He came up to the deck, saw his dad was missing and went into a panic, police said.
Another son, who came to help in the search, later found Burgasser's lifeless body floating in the water a couple of docks away, police said. Burgasser, who lived in North Tonawanda, was 63.
A preliminary investigation by the North Tonawanda police indicates the death was likely either an accident or related to a medical event, said Capt. Thomas Krantz.
News of his death shocked the legal community on Monday.
"We are heartbroken to learn this devastating news," said U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr.
Burgasser, who retired in 2017, worked for nearly 29 years in the Justice Department, first in Washington, D.C., and eventually as an assistant U.S. attorney in Buffalo.
Burgasser and his son were on the boat Sunday to show it to some friends who were interested in buying it, police said. They then stayed on the boat, enjoying a few drinks, but did not take it out on the water, according to police.
At some point, George Burgasser went up on deck. That's when his son heard a sound and found his dad missing. The son called his mother who in turn called 911. Another son came to help with the search, police said.
North Tonawanda police are still investigating the death, Krantz said. "Right now, it's all very preliminary until we get those autopsy results," Krantz said.
Police said there was a cut on Burgasser's head but no other trauma to his body. An autospy was conducted Monday but the medical examiner was still reviewing the case Monday afternoon.
Kennedy said Burgasser "served his country and our community with distinction."
"He was everyone’s friend," Kennedy said. "Fellow prosecutors, the defense bar, judges, juries, and even those he prosecuted, all respected George, but perhaps, most telling is the fact they all liked George as well."
Kennedy said Burgasser "remained compassionate to all with whom he came into contact."
"He lived and worked by the greatest legal precept of all — the Golden Rule. Our condolences go out to George’s loving family and countless friends," Kennedy said. "He will be missed by all."
Defense attorney Paul Cambria said his colleagues and other defense attorneys respected Burgasser.
“George was a solid public servant who did his job with no animosity toward anyone. He prosecuted major drug cases but never acted like he was trying to get vengeance on anyone. This really makes me sad. He’s going to be missed,” Cambria said.
FBI Buffalo Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin P Lyons said, "George Burgasser was a long-time partner of ours working directly with agents on our Safe Streets Task Force and Career Criminal Task Force. We relied on George as the lead prosecutor for these task forces for over twenty years. His work alone represents how committed he was to keeping western New York communities and neighborhoods safe for those who lived and worked in them."