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Vanished--Missing Great Lakes Boaters
|Author||Topic: Vanished--Missing Great Lakes Boaters|
posted 08-19-2005 10:20 AM ET (US)
Here is a local story about two Michigan boatsers...The boat was found running with the VHF on and all person effects aboard.
Just goes to show that you never know what can happen on the water. Who knows if PFD's were on. Mostly not on a boat of that size.
|Knot at Work||
posted 08-19-2005 11:20 AM ET (US)
Great Lakes Triangle?
posted 08-19-2005 11:37 AM ET (US)
Went swimming? (Neutral gear) Not likely with the water temps and if it was rough.
The boat had drifted N/E to the outer Les Cheneaux Islands (Marquette Island) which means that if they went in - they'll be somewhere along the southern shore of the eastern UP - perhaps as far East as DeTour. If they got caught in that current coming out of Superior - they should extend the recovery effort to the remote outer shore of Manitoulin Island.
Theory: if conditions were getting rough, one could have been thrown from the boat, or they stopped to do something (stupid like urinating over the side, or off the swimming deck?) one could have gone overboard and the other gone in after to help.
My dad sheltered a guy who washed up on his beach in Southern Lake Michigan about 4 or 5 years ago. He was crossing in a similar sized boat, alone and hit a wave "wrong", which caused him to hit his head on the windshield (breaking his cheekbone) and tossed him overboard. He couldn't climb back into the boat as the waves were rolling 6-7 footers and eventually he and the boat washed ashore on dad's rocky beach. The boat was pulverized and this poor guy climbs the 75-100 foot high, concrete-strewn bluff and shows up on Dad's back porch, bloody and incoherent.
posted 08-22-2005 05:05 PM ET (US)
It sounds like a "went swimming" or skinny dipping event to me, maybe just to cool off. They obviously voluntarily left the boat. Swimming off an unanchored boat, in 60 degree open water, is very dangerous. Boats can drift away from you faster than you can swim. Add a few drinks into the equation, and you're in big trouble.
Having cruised this area just recently, I can tell you it is where Lake Huron's coldest water is. Hypothermia can disable you fast, and a body goes to the bottom and stays down for a long time. As in the Edmund Fitzgerald song, "Superior they say, never gives up her dead.." That's because of the cold core temperature of the northern Great Lakes
posted 08-22-2005 05:36 PM ET (US)
If alcohol was involved, the danger of an overboard mishap is much greater. They look pretty drunk in the picture, so I hope they didn't try to swim.
What a bummer. They look like a nice couple.
posted 08-22-2005 05:37 PM ET (US)
Pretty common scenario- passenger decides to jump in to cool off, or falls in accidentally, skipper panics, puts the boat in neutral and jumps in for the save, unfortunately the boat blows or drifts away (higher profile than two in the water) and both are done for, horrible situation to be in. I hope I'm wrong-k
posted 08-25-2005 12:05 AM ET (US)
There was a similar incident on the upper Chesapeake Bay this past weekend but the boat and the 2 people were found. In this case, the boat had run aground. The two people on board got out of the boat and tried to push the boat off of the sandbar. Eventually they freed her but the whole time, the boat was in gear and running. Once the boat was free, it took off without them. They tried to swim after it and one of the persons drowned.
The only thing that makes any sense to me, in this case, is that they had the boat idling in reverse.
posted 08-25-2005 12:19 AM ET (US)
They found a floater on Lake Huron today in the area of Cheboygan, I believe they said it was a female, believed to be one of the two persons who were on board, both Lawyers from Grosse Pointe, Mi. cruising out of Belle River, Ontario (on Lake St. Clair) for a weekend on Mackinac Island...they now have to go through the formality of identifying her positively...I agree with with previous comments re: hypothermia.....a couple of years ago there was a guy who dove off his boat in Grand Traverse Bay, summer time, very cold water temperatures, suffered a coronary from the shock of the cold water and subsequently drowned...
posted 08-25-2005 06:44 AM ET (US)
It hasn't been established whether or not alcohol was a factor. There have been some speculation of foul play. Either way its a shame, and hopefully it will work out for the best.
posted 08-25-2005 08:35 AM ET (US)
Coast Guard Operations Summary:
August 13, 2005
D9: Overdue 27-foot Wellcraft - Rogers City to Mackinac Island, MI
Air Station Traverse City and Station St. Ignace, with C-130 assistance from Canadian Regional Coordination Center Trenton are actively searching for two people possibly in the water in position 45-54.2N 084- 21.4W, near Bois Blanc Island, MI., in northern Lake Huron. The 27ft Wellcraft departed Rogers City, MI., at 5:00 p.m. and was due to arrive at Mackinac Island, MI., later that evening. After issuing an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast a sailing vessel reported seeing a boat that matched the description. Station St. Ignace arrived on scene and confirmed it was the missing boat. The boat was found in good condition with the engine running in the neutral position. Personal items were onboard including one wallet and cell phones. A voyage history was derived from the GPS which showed a drift track from Forty Mile Point, MI., to the boat location. The owner was not onboard and stated his daughter borrowed the boat and was with an adult male friend. Search efforts will continue through the evening. Case Pends.
D9: Overdue 27-foot Wellcraft - Rogers City to Mackinac Island, Mich.
Air Station Traverse City, Air Facility Muskegon, Station St. Ignace, USCGC Biscayne Bay, and a Canadian C-130 completed 14 sorties (missions) for a 35-year-old female and 34-year-old male with negative results. After their 27 ft vessel was located, Station St. Ignace was able to determine the GPS route of vessel and last cell phone calls made by the female. Sector Sault Ste. Marie put a timeline together which placed the couple close to Mackinaw Island on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. with the intent to moor at Mackinac Island marina around 7:00 p.m. Four pfd's were missing from the boat and a 40 ft line was in the water. Next of kin for the 35-year-old female has been notified, but next of kin for the 34-year-old male has been unreachable so far. Continued diligence to notify the 34-year-old male's family will be D9's responsibility. Case suspended.
posted 08-25-2005 08:37 AM ET (US)
Much appreciated. Thank you.
posted 08-25-2005 11:06 AM ET (US)
has more recent information.
posted 08-25-2005 12:39 PM ET (US)
Hmmm, interesting how there was a line in the water. I still think someone fell overboard and the other tried to save them. IMHO I think the guy when to have a pee off the swim platform when he lost his balance from a wave and went over. With the boat drifting faster than he could swim the girl jumped over with the line in hand to try and get to him. Keeping the line as a life line now knowing how fast the boating is drifting. I could be wrong but the people who really know are know gone. Sad.
Just goes to show that everyone on board should be shown where the PFD's are on the boat. How to operate and call a distress over the VHF. Know where the flares are. And at least start the boat and know how to put it in gear to manuever it. My wife and most of my friends who I bring on the boat have this knowledge. I often will have my wife and my good friends who I bring out alot drive the boat with me by thier side. This is so they can operate it if something should happen to me.
posted 08-25-2005 12:54 PM ET (US)
They never made it (or checked in) to Mackinac Island, right?
Why did it take so long to get to Bois Blanc Island? (They were due to arrive at Mackinac Island at 6:00 PM) - and why was the GPS off? I'm wondering if we have the whole story on that front - Theory: if the GPS was running and indicated the courseline to Bois Blanc Island at 5:30 or so and then shut off until around 1:30 AM, it might indicate that they simply stopped and had dinner, perhaps anchored and took a nap in the lee of Bois Blanc Island before continuing on to Mackinac. When they turned on the boat and GPS to make a courseline to Mackinac, perhaps one fell overboard for whatever reason. The line-in-the-water theory that Jeff details above is plausible, since that's how I'd do it if I made the decision to go in after someone. But I'd first throw my lifering to see if the MOB could recover by themselves.
It is a sad story no matter what.
posted 08-25-2005 01:42 PM ET (US)
What are the conditions like there this time of year? Is there a strong current there? Is the weather and water warm or cold?
It would seem that reasonably healthy boaters could swim as fast as a drifting boat in a lake unless the weather was really bad or they were impaired in some way, especially if their lives were depending on it.
I guess we may never know. How sad.
I guess this tragedy could serve as an object lesson for our own boating procedures and safety precautions.
posted 08-25-2005 02:34 PM ET (US)
If you've rescued someone in the water, and have your arm around their chest keeping them up, you can't swim very fast, if at all. A boat could easily drift away.
The hard reality of it is if you're in a situation like this, you really can't afford to leave the boat and go in the water unless you are tethered to the boat. The boat is still the best chance of survival, and the boat should be manuevered right up to the person in the water to help them back aboard, or toss them a tethered cushion or jacket. Even in dead calm water, a person who can handle the boat properly should be in it while others swim, if they must.
This is why they always say in a mishap, STAY WITH THE BOAT, even if it's overturned. It's also why we buy Whalers, since overturned, they won't sink out from under you.
One more thing - own Class I life jackets and have at least two on board for situations like this. They REALLY keep you afloat and protect you, like the other's don't
posted 08-25-2005 03:41 PM ET (US)
We're talking about Lake Huron here, not some small inland lake. The position where the GPS track started at 1:30 AM the morning of their disappearance is somewhat in the lee of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. These straits are not exactly considered mild and have a tendency to produce some nasty conditions.
However, I don't believe the weather was bad this particular day.
The water up there, while reaching the upper 60's and low 70's in the shallows, is deceptively cold all year long, and was likely in the low 60's to upper 50's just a few feet under the surface.
August typically produces the most reliably good weather in this are.
There are some weird currents, since Lake Michigan is flowing into Lake Huron through a 5 mile wide strait about 6 miles to the West of where the boat was cast adrift (15 miles or so West of where the boat was found). And 20 miles East, the cold waters of Lake Superior are dumping into Lake Huron through the St. Mary's River.
This is big water, to be sure, and should be respected like the ocean.
I agree with Larry - Stay with the boat. I believe one of our West Coast forum members gave me the idea to develop a safety card for the boat and to have folks read it before coming aboard. I've been working on one for a few days since I saw this posting.
posted 08-25-2005 04:30 PM ET (US)
Buckda: Thanks for the description. I wasn't sure about the water temp or the currents. They may have had it all: cold water, currents and some waves. (Any time you have two large bodies of water meeting at a narrow point it is never really very calm) I always had the impression that it was hot and muggy in that area during summer and therefore calm for some reason.
Someday I would like to see that area. The pictures I've seen are always beautiful calm days.
posted 08-25-2005 04:44 PM ET (US)
On the right, you can see the large island that is Bois Blanc Island and north of that, a very small island (Goose Island) and then the larger Marquette Island above that, nestled in with the rest of the Les Cheneaux Islands.
Lake Michigan is on the left (west) of the bridge, the water you're looking at is mostly lake Huron.
If they were on the north side of Bois Blanc Island, they were relatively leeward of the wind/waves - since the boat drifted north to a position about 2 miles South of Marquette Island. That's partly why I don't think weather really played a role in this situation (pure speculation there).
posted 08-25-2005 05:04 PM ET (US)
On the night of August 11, 2005, wind and waves were minimal in the area. The surface temperature of the water was in the high 60s. See http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/realtime2/45003.txt
I actually went scuba diving out of Alpena, Michigan on the morning of August 12, 2005. Alpena is just south of Rogers City, where the couple was last seen alive. Although August 11 had been a very windy and overcast day, the weather had calmed down by the evening. On the morning of August 12, Lake Huron was very calm, and the sun was out. The waves outside of Thunder Bay were less than one foot.
Survival time in 60 to 70 degree water is approximately 2 to 40 hours, with exhaustion or unconsciousness in approximately 2 to 7 hours. See: http://www.ussartf.org/cold_water_survival.htm
posted 08-25-2005 06:48 PM ET (US)
Detroit's ABC Affiliate announced today on 5PM & 6PM news that they are awaiting positive identification of a female recovered from Lake Huron in the Cheyboygan, Mi area, stated they were 60% sure at this time that the person recovered is the female from the Boat found adrift near Marquette Island. Michigan State Police are still searching the shorelines by Helicopter for the missing Male.
It is a sad situation for sure, and has given me a lot of food for thought as I often boat alone. I have recently started training my 13 year old son, who joined me At Charlevoix, Mi., that in an emergency should I fall overboard, put the boat in neutral or shut it off, to hail help via radio (my radio has a red button which automatically changes to emergency channel), give GPS coordinates, toss the throwable, etc....
Ironically enough, The State Police Sergeant in charge of the investigation is a guy who I recently attended a Financial Analysis school with. The news also had a shot of the arrival of the MSP Dive Team with a Boston Whaler Outrage in tow. It was a quick shot couldn't tell what size Outrage, but I did see the MSP Door Seal on the side. It's the first time I've seen an MSP Water Craft of any type.
posted 08-25-2005 09:41 PM ET (US)
The female body came ashore near the "marina" [small boat harbor] in Hammond Bay, which is on the northern shore of the lower peninsula of Michigan and east of the straits by about 25 miles.
The comments about the GPS track are curious. I wonder if the track just begins where the memory ran out after the unit was left on. If your GPS keeps a track, it starts to erase the previous track line when it runs out of memory. The reports mention the track as if the GPS was turned ON at an odd time, but my interpretation of their comments is more in line with the track just going back so far due to memory limitations in the unit.
posted 08-25-2005 09:45 PM ET (US)
Hyperlink to satellite map of Hammond Bay.
posted 08-26-2005 06:06 PM ET (US)
The Detroit News has a story today on this, wherein a relative of the missing woman is quoted as saying, "We're still just not convinced that this was a classic fall-in-the-water situation."
Reading between the lines, one gets the impression that the relatives of the missing woman seem to have a strong feeling that foul play was involved. For those not following the story closely, the abandoned boat was owned by the woman's family. The body of her male companion has not been found. I guess those are a couple of dots that could be connected.
More coverage also from the Detroit Free Press:
posted 08-30-2005 12:02 AM ET (US)
Dental records confirmed that the recently found female body floating in Lake Huron in Hammond Bay was that of Lana Ann Stempien, 35, of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, the missing Lake Huron boater. Her boyfriend and boating companion, Charles Rutherford, 34, also of Grosse Pointe Farms, is still missing.
for more details.
posted 08-30-2005 10:28 PM ET (US)
I was up in Rogers City when the search was on. It is very wide spread, pictures posted all around town. I found it quite upsetting, given all the local rumors and had little access to the news (too busy enjoying Lake Huron). I appreciate all the access to articles you've posted here, giving more fact than hear say. Thanks in advance for sharing any "new" news.
By the by, Rogers City has a gorgeous harbor, very affordable and a cute little town with the welcome mat always out for Whalers :).
Check out the website: http://www.rogerscity.org/BoatHarbor.aspx
posted 09-01-2005 08:32 AM ET (US)
The DETROIT NEWS reported Sunday that a state police autopsy has determined that drowning was the cause of death for Lana Stempien and that the medical examiner found no signs of trauma, but her relatives and family still express doubt that her death was accidental. They have announced plans to conduct their own private autopsy and forensic investigation, and have hired a private investigator.
posted 09-01-2005 09:08 AM ET (US)
Having spent 6 years of my career as a supervisor with the Detroit Police Department's Homicide Section, I've seen just about every type of death situation there is, including drownings and boating deaths on the Detroit River.
It is always difficult to deal with an unexpected death in one's family. Many citizens are unable deal with or accept the results of investigations into the demise of a loved one.....I think to a certain extent it's human nature......But accidents happen, even to the most conscientious people.
I believe the Autopsy speaks for itself, this appears to be an accident. I would be interested in seeing the toxicology results when they come in to see if drinking was involved. There doesn't appear to be anything sinister going on here. Not to sound sarcastic, but the family would be better served using the money spent on private investigators for something else....maybe make a donation in the family name to fund marine safety classes or search rescue units......
posted 09-22-2005 08:20 AM ET (US)
I heard that there was an article last weekend in the Detroit News further featuring this tragedy. Did anyone read it?
Has the second person's body been recovered?
posted 09-22-2005 08:45 AM ET (US)
Here's a link to a more recent article:
I also heard one of the victims' relatives on a local radio station discussing the case. That person stated that the "console knob" embedded in the woman's shoe was actually one of the mounting screws from the GPS which frequently came loose and fell to the floor.
posted 09-22-2005 04:42 PM ET (US)
Intriguing story. There seems to be information that is not being published. No fiction ever compares with reality. jimh's observation on the GPS track is interesting and if true would remove much of the mystique, especially if the toxocology report supports a high level of alcohol. But as long as Mr. Rutherford is unaccounted for, closure will be difficult. (I've been watching too many "Forensic Files"). But this justifies taking boating seriously and think safety first at all times.
posted 09-23-2005 05:45 PM ET (US)
Intriguing enough to read some of the reported details. The boat was found running with lights off at idle, in neutral, with a 20' rope hanging off the stern around 11:20 a.m. on 9/12. One report stated at on the previous day the boat had been traveling in 4'-5' seas with 20 kt. winds. The last reported communique from the boat occured at 1:30 p.m. 9/11 or one other source listed about 3 p.m. on 9/11.
To jimh's question regarding the GPS memory: Could the GPS have been on long enough such that its memory filled and the unit started to 'write over itself' ?
1) The timeline shows the boat stopped for gas at 12:37 p.m. on 9/11. Assume electrical shutdown to gas the boat and then restart. The timeline shows that the GPS was "turned on" at 1:36 a.m. on 9/12. This is about 13 hours after the boat was gassed.
2) Start with the timeline at the GPS being "turned on" at 1:36 a.m. on 9/12. It shows that the boat was found about 11:20 a.m. on 9/12. This is about 10 hours after the 1:36 a.m. turn-on time.
Could one deduce for an electronic device with finite memory that in the first time slice the GPS was turned-on at 12:37 p.m. 9/11, and, if left on it filled up its memory at 1:36 a.m. 9/12 where it then started to write over itself? This would indicate that the memory fills after about 13 hours. If so, then at this time the GPS wrote a 1:36 a.m. start time over the original 12:37 p.m. start time and kept on running. The boat was discovered about 10 hours later, at which time the GPS indicated that it had been turned on at 1:36 a.m. 9/12 instead of 12:37 p.m. 9/11.
One report that seems odd in respect to this occurs in the 8/26 Detroit Free Press. Here is states that "..it deviated from its planned course around 1 a.m. Aug.12, and the speed of the boat dropped to 1 m.p.h. somewhere near the east side of Bois Blanc Island about the same time,...". This conflicts with virtually all of the other reports that state that the GPS was turned on at 1:36 a.m. Because, how does one determine that the boat changed course and/or speed with a GPS a half hour before it was turned on?
Also, one web article said that the GPS panic button was pushed around 1:30 a.m. but I have not been able to refind that article for reference.
I tried to determine the year and modle of the Wellcraft boat. From the picture in the paper, it could be a 2000 vintage 2600 Martinique but a 1998 Wellcraft 260SE listing appeared to be an exact match. The 260SE showed that the "Wellcraft" lettering is in exactly the same spot and other exact-matching features appear to be the Dodge Daytona-like spoiler, bow rails, cockpit glass, and port hole windows. The vintage 2000 Martinique's are the same except the "Wellcraft" lettering is in a different spot.
One listing for the Martinique model boat specifies the LOA as 27'5'', which goes along with all the reports that the boat was a 27 footer. It appears from several sources of pictures of the Martinique and 260SE model on the web that it has a built-in dive platform and transom door. So getting into the boat is feasible for a swimmer.
The reason I researched the boat model and vintage was to try and determine a likely vintage for an OEM-installed GPS. Several listings of these model boats listed GPS's, most without specifics. But a couple listed the GPS as a Garmin. One listing, which didn't have a photo, utilized information from a brochure that I noted as a Garmin GPSmap182. So if anyone has a similar GPS, maybe they could comment on its function and memory if powered up and left on for an extended period of time.
posted 09-23-2005 06:12 PM ET (US)
I would be willing to bet a fair amount of money that the GPS track data is a red herring. My guess is that the cops don't understand that the track memory on a marine GPS is first-in-first out in that once the track has 2000 points saved, it just starts throwing out the oldest as it saves a new one. My guess is also that the authorities probably didn't turn the GPS off immediately when they found the boat. Much more likely is that it was left on until investigators boarded the boat and decided to download whatever data was in it.
posted 09-23-2005 07:53 PM ET (US)
Gentlemen--Thanks for the very interesting comments.
Re the GPS: I have felt from the initial mention of the GPS track that the authorities have been misinterpreting the information. Also, how the heck to you derive speed data from the GPS track? Can your GPS do this? I do not think that my GPS can do this. Heck, if it can, I surely do not know how to access this information.
Perhaps there is something special about the GPS and the investigators have access to more data than the average user of a GPS knows about. I suppose it might be possible to download all the track information and analyze it, assuming it was a series of stored fixes and times.
Is there anyone reading this thread that can tell us more about downloading track information from a GPS? I have no idea how to do this from my GPS.
posted 09-23-2005 08:10 PM ET (US)
More than just position is recorded for each track point.
At least on my Garmin 162.
posted 09-23-2005 08:21 PM ET (US)
How long it takes for the track line to wrap is user programmable.
My Garmin 162 allows intervals of 1 second to many hours.
How many track points there is a function of the GPS model
and is typically a small number of thousands. It also can
take track points based on distance.
You cannot deduce that it filled up its memory at 1:36 a.m.,
I've thought for some time that when a GPS needs more track
posted 09-23-2005 09:15 PM ET (US)
When I left my GPS on overnight, the dots were spaced very closely (on top of one another) as the boat drifted around the anchor point.
Also interesting to note: on my model, It stored the three days worth of data (including an overnight at anchor) before it utilized all of the active track memory and began to re-write over old tracks.
I really hope that they figure out what happened...
posted 09-23-2005 11:06 PM ET (US)
Here's an example of what my GPS records for track
60 2/21/2005 12:47:17 PM 237 ft 0:00:05 28 kt 153* true N36 36.707 W121 53.453
posted 09-24-2005 05:38 AM ET (US)
Just little strange to see someone using Knots Instead of miles.
posted 09-24-2005 06:01 AM ET (US)
Chuck--You must be getting that data out with a serial interface or something. I guess my unit is an older generation. I don't recall that it even has a serial port to connect to, nor does it have anyway that I know of to see that data. Perhaps the unit on the boat in question is more modern, like yours, and information like this was recovered.
I have always been curious how they knew (or alleged) that the GPS device had been turned on at a particular time of day.
Does your Garmin also record information about when it was turned on and off?
posted 09-24-2005 06:49 AM ET (US)
My unit is a Garmin 276c, using blue charts. To retrieve the data using the Garmin supplied cord it is connected to a serial port.
My hand held E-Trex, same way but with a different cord.
Updates to software in both units can only be installed using the connection.
posted 10-06-2005 01:08 PM ET (US)
Regarding the question of when it was turned off and on, was there "any" additional data on the GPS previous to when they say it was turned on?
I read all the postings, but wanted to make sure I didn't miss this significant piece.
Thanks for keeping on this. It really has me baffled.
posted 10-06-2005 04:05 PM ET (US)
Jimh, I didn't see your question of a couple of weeks ago.
I have a Garmin 162, which is at best obsolescent (Garmin
Yes, I read out the track with Garmin MapSource via the serial
posted 10-07-2005 09:25 AM ET (US)
I posed the GPS question above to the 'contact us' at the Garmin website and got no response. I emailed the reporter, 'email@example.com', who wrote a few of the news articles and pointed out some of the inconsistencies between some of the GPS reports. No response. I posted the GPS questions at http://www.planethuff.com/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1007, which has some postings by some people related to the couple. The site didn't post my post nor respond. A 9/19 Bourdet news article stated that "Jack Cote, a well-known attorney who worked nine years on unraveling the boating disappearance of Detroit restaurateur Chuck Muer, had offered his services, free, to Rutherford's family to help determine why and how Rutherford disappeared. But Cote said he was asked to suspend his investigation just days ago. He doesn't know why." And, the toxicology results, reportedly due out two weeks from 9/16, have not been published. So is there a lid? Maybe the families are satisfied and just want to move on seems most likely to me.
posted 11-03-2005 08:27 AM ET (US)
The toxicology report is in on the woman. She had carbon monoxide in her system, and the cause of death was drowning.
posted 11-03-2005 09:03 AM ET (US)
CO Level was (unless the newspaper slipped a decimal point)
26x the lethal level. CO kills by bonding to the red blood
cells instead of O2, so the red blood cells are no longer
carrying O2 to the body. I wonder how functional she would
have been at those levels. Functional enough to stand up
so she could fall overboard?
Teak surfing in the nude?
I presume that there will be an inspection of the boat for
posted 11-03-2005 01:47 PM ET (US)
Perhaps she was overwhelmed by CO while taking a swim as the boat idled. An earlier post mentioned a 20 foot rope off the stern. This does not account for the other victim, however he may have suffered the same fate, or perished in a rescue attempt.
posted 11-03-2005 02:10 PM ET (US)
My first thought was similar to the others above: the couple went for a swim and found themselves breathing in the exhaust of the engine.
What works against that theory is the water temperature of Lake Huron in that vicinity. It is generally not more than 70-degrees, even in little shallow coves in the dead of summer. In mid-lake water, I think it would be quite a bit cooler, probably in the low 60-degree range.
However, people do seem to do rather odd things, like jumping in for a nude swim in relatively cool water.
posted 11-03-2005 02:52 PM ET (US)
I don't think it was the CO. Her saturation rate was listed at 13%, which would be expressed as 0.13. 50%-60% is the level that can cause uncionciousness, with death typically at the upper end of the range.
Below 20%, a perseon often won't have any symptoms, or if they do, it will likely be feeling crummy, headache, etc.
Loss of cooridination, etc, typically occurs starting at about 30%. To put her number in perspective, heavy smokers have baseline CO saturation rates of up to 9%.
posted 11-04-2005 01:00 PM ET (US)
I'm still having a hard time with the fact that the boyfriend's body hasn't been discovered yet. Perhaps he'll still wash up somewhere. Unfortunately, if he washes up on a deserted beach, and he, too was naked, identifying the remains and doing any forensic work could be very difficult.
Interesting that her body floated South and East, while the boat floated North and East (with the wind at the time?)
I'm also still fascinated with the GPS factor - how and why it was turned on, and the data it contained is very important, but I somehow don't think we're getting accurate information in the media on that front.
Pat - is this a tactic of Homicide investigators, to perhaps share slightly false or misleading information, if they're trying to get a desired response from a "person of interest?"
posted 11-04-2005 04:32 PM ET (US)
I'm not familiar with saturation levels of CO and at what point one would loose consciousness or death would occur. But I've read and seen many articles in boating magazines which discuss deaths and CO related drownings which have occurred when people were swimming close to swim platforms and large amounts of CO had accumulated, both from the boats engines and generator's running on large house boats.
I haven't read the article, I heard a blip on the radio today....
posted 11-04-2005 05:02 PM ET (US)
Maybe no promise like, "You can go home if you tell me what you know," but there's nothing legally wrong with "I've gotta take you in unless you tell me what you know;" right, Pat (and/or Alex/Alkar)?
This case is like something on a TV cop show, but I'll bet it turns out to be just a sad misfortune. Man, serious stuff can happen so fast on the water and stem from just one tiny mistake or moment of inattention...
posted 11-04-2005 09:49 PM ET (US)
Identification through dental records would not be a problem.
posted 11-04-2005 09:58 PM ET (US)
Yes, identifying the remains would be relatively easy, but doing a test such as Blood Alcohol levels, CO saturation, even bruising or cuts on the skin that might indicate what happened would be long gone.
posted 11-05-2005 08:42 AM ET (US)
posted 01-01-2006 09:50 AM ET (US)
This intriguing case has an ongoing discussion that can be followed at the boards.courttv.com site (search under missing persons heading), which mentions a planned Dateline airing this month.
posted 01-01-2006 01:19 PM ET (US)
This mystery maritime disappearance now has its own website:
If you really want to spend an hour reading a lot of speculation from people who aren't sure of basic things like what time zone Michigan happens to be in, see the Court TV forum thread, all 17-pages of it and still growing:
The most interesting details from the long discussion there:
--a report by a local TV station based on an interview with another boater (who is reported to have a 50-foot boat) that the derelict boat was trailing a 20-foot line off the stern when initially found by this other boater. A blue fender was attached to the end of the line. The USCG report omits the blue fender. That boater is now avoiding further comment.
--the body of the missing woman was found without any clothing, which in the (reported) opinion of the medical examiner would be indicative of it having entered the water that way (as it had not been in the water long enough for any clothing to be removed by wave action). Yet an expensive Omega watch was being worn. Friends of the victim report she was very fond of that watch and would never voluntarily enter the water while wearing it. This is construed to mean that she did not enter the water voluntarily.
There is apparently an episode of NBC DATELINE which will air in January, 2006, which will present this maritime disappearance to the nation. Watch for it on http://www.msnbc.com/onair/default.asp?program=Dateline%20NBC
posted 01-03-2006 04:20 PM ET (US)
Update on the Court TV site is the Dateline piece is scheduled to air Friday, January 13th.
posted 01-12-2006 01:43 PM ET (US)
Reminder, and interesting comment from someone posting on the forum mentioned above.
"On behalf of Lana's family I want to say thank you to those of you who have kept Lana and her family in your thoughts and prayers. ..... You will hopefully get a good understanding as to how and why we are so sure that what happened on the water that day was not an accident ... So please be sure to watch Dateline."
From the Dateline site: " Coming up on Dateline - Jan. 13, Friday, 9 p.m. What seemingly started out as a pleasure trip ended in a mysterious disappearance when two attorneys in-love vanished on Lake Huron. Her body was found, but his was never recovered. Was it an accident or was it murder?"
posted 01-12-2006 02:16 PM ET (US)
What's so suspicious about the fender on the line? That's how they would find my boat if something happend to me while swimming. I have always rigged a trailing line like that when anybody goes in the water, even while anchored.
posted 01-12-2006 03:26 PM ET (US)
That makes sense about the fender except that 1) there's some conjecture about the fender not being from the incident boat, and/or 2) there seems to be no official confirmation that there really was a fender. It is one of several unpublished or unconfirmed details that perhaps could be disclosed on the show, though I think their primary mission will be to provide publicity for the case in support of the planned-disappearance theory.
This has always felt like an accident to me. But I'm intrigued by several unpublished details that either support an accident theory or provide cause to suspect foul play as suggested by apparent insiders. We'll see....
posted 01-13-2006 10:18 AM ET (US)
I see that Dateline is featuring a story tonight about two missing boaters on Lake Huron, sounds like this story.
posted 01-13-2006 09:09 PM ET (US)
I'm watching it now! Same story! I think they are playing it up! You know the mystery of it!
posted 01-14-2006 06:08 AM ET (US)
Well, it was interesting but inconclusive. I think the primary objective of the show was publicity in a search for the missing [Chuck Rutherford], IF he is still alive. Of the details that I was looking for, they showed a photo of the knob in the shoe, the GPS (a Garmin, but did not show the model), and 'simulated' blue bumpers with an eyewitness account of them having been there.
There were a few new details and some accounts by witnesses mentioned in previous published articles. The witnesses included the couple they had dinner with the night before at the marina and a dock attendant. Details included a phone call [Lana Stempien] made at 1:50-ish pm the day of the disappearance to a man.
The knob in the shoe looked about like I had imagined. I don't see how it conclusively indicates foul play. It IS odd. But it COULD have occured by accident. A test with another like shoe and knob and a person of the same weight as [Lana Stempien] could shed some light.
The GPS details are still cloudy and guarded. I'm an engineer so nothing would suffice except a complete analysis of the GPS readings and capabilities. Someone did state that the ONLY way the GPS could have had some blank memory or basically been in the state it was in is IF someone had manipulated it during a particular window of time, namely early the morning the boat was found. If so, then this is the only solid implication of foul play. I'm not sure what else falls into this category save for the many gaps, disconnects, unanswered questions, etc.
The blue fender issue is baffling. An eyewitness gave an account that they were there. Yet, where are they? The USCG cannot confirm nor can anyone produce them. Research shows that [Lana Stempien] did not buy them, at least at 'the usual places'. No one mentioned how many the boat did have.
What about the vodka bottle? No details of where it was found and under what 'conditions' were provided. Same for [Lana Stempien] clothes or [Chuck Rutherford] effects.All detective Sexton would say was that there was nothing found to suggest foul play.
I can understand why people would be suspicious in this case. I think the GPS readings are the only real potential solid indicator of foul play. I say potential only because that analysis was not presented. If you accept what was presented on Dateline and in the publications so far, what besides the GPS is a solid indicator of foul play?
Without the GPS details, I'm still leaning toward accident. I see events happen like this in engineering failure investigations. You don't usually see what we call "single-point failures", those have usually been designed out. It usually takes a chain of events for something really bad to happen. As humans, we can't begin to account for all of those potential combinations in our lives.
Boating accidents happen. In fact, I live here in South Florida and today's paper has an article about the USCG searching for a local boater who vanished from his boat on his way home from the Bahamas yesterday. He was traveling with separate boats but "they didn't realize he never made it back". He was a local successful entrepreneur, former kickboxer and championship waterskier. The search for this man has just begun. But the beginnings of the story are not dissimilar from those that occured on the Sea's Life.
posted 01-14-2006 07:56 AM ET (US)
I agree with you smw. I saw most of the show. Had I not logged to check CW at the time, I would have forgotten.
The knob could easily have fallen off and stepped on - but, as a lawyer (not an engineer), I'd have to see some testing on that. There are probably a dozen other non foul play scenarios that we could develop.
Need some definitve answer on the GPS.
I do not think it at all unusual that the girl's family would think foul play. So often, it is the boyfriend/husband who is responsible as in The Juice.
Wonder if it could be a murder-suicide - not at all uncommon in these situations.
posted 01-14-2006 09:25 AM ET (US)
Transcript of the Dateline story:
posted 01-14-2006 09:50 PM ET (US)
Just got back from dinner with a close friend who knew them both (friend worked for Wayne County goverment, as an attorney) and who saw the story.
Did confirm that Lana had called another male friend, and had been considering breaking or cooling off the relationship with Charles. Don't know if that was going to occur during the trip.
The friend thought the story indicated that the GPS indicated a track for a while, then no track, then a resumption of track upto where the boat was found. That's weird...
Based on my experience with about five different Garmin GPS models (handheld units, aviation units, and marine units) there is only three ways that might happen: the unit either didn't have power to it; unit was turned off; unit was on and something obstructed the antenna. Did the unit have an external antenna, or was it built in?. None of the units I've used allowed for removal of a section of track.
Definately odd case though. Enough facts to point in a number of directions.
posted 01-22-2006 05:08 AM ET (US)
According to one person, the GPS on that boat was a Garmin 130.
If anyone has this model, perhaps they could say what readings there are after the unit has been switched on, some waypoints programmed and then the unit left running for 24 hrs or 48 hrs or until the unit is out of memory, starts over, etc.
Also, the Dateline transcript says "... part of the memory on the GPS was suspiciously blank. The company that makes the unit says that could only happen if someone intentionally deleted information ...". Maybe someone could comment as to if and how this could be done.
posted 01-22-2006 05:50 PM ET (US)
That quote "... part of the memory on the GPS was suspiciously blank. The company that makes the unit says that could only happen if someone intentionally deleted information ...". does not give a complete answer in my opinion.
Was the memory full, and the initial part of the trip erased to make room for the more recent part of the trip? Garmins can be set to do that (in fact, that may be the factory default....will have to check). For someone unfamilier with how they operate, the missing portion of the track _could_ make someone think suspiciously.
Anyone out there have experience with a 130?
posted 01-22-2006 11:50 PM ET (US)
I had (still do, SOMEWHERE in the garage) a Garmin 175, which
is quite similar to the 130 (runs same firmware, but on
I downloaded the 130 manual, and the options are Off (no track
The 130 is a pretty moldy old unit -- the manual is dated 1996.
posted 02-14-2006 03:34 PM ET (US)
There's been a spate of recent news reports with some newly revealed evidence in this case:
posted 02-14-2006 05:08 PM ET (US)
The sad fact is even if they find his body, we might never know exactly what happened! Of course if he turns up alive, one can then easily surmize what happened!
posted 08-04-2006 08:39 AM ET (US)
The Presque Isle Circuit court has ruled that Charles Rutherford is dead: http://detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060804/METRO01/608040360
posted 08-04-2006 08:48 AM ET (US)
Interesting that his liabilities exceeded his assets by more than 100K. Relationship reported to be going south, deep in debt... I find it interesting that the judge would declare him dead so quickly. I thought they were supposed to wait much longer in the case of a missing person with inconclusive evidence.
posted 08-04-2006 09:00 AM ET (US)
Plotman, I read somewhere else that it is up to each local jurisdiction as to how it handles cases like this. The timeline for issue a certificate varies, there's no one set of 'rules'.
posted 08-04-2006 09:05 AM ET (US)
Also, by today's standards $100K is hardly "deep in debt", especially when it is in the form of the remaining mortgage balance on a home of someone in their thirties. Even more so in a town where the median house probably goes for 300K or more.
posted 08-04-2006 09:15 AM ET (US)
In Michigan, you can seek a determination of death as soon as 63 days after somebody goes missing: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(orm5hx455sp5es55wkqky055)/mileg. aspx?page=getobject&objectName=mcl-700-1207&relation=next
posted 08-04-2006 09:38 AM ET (US)
When you factor in Law School student loans, I'm suprised the debt isn't even bigger.
posted 08-04-2006 10:30 AM ET (US)
The 100+ K was the excess of liabilities over his assets. That was a net number. There was over $300K of actual debt, offset by $200k in assets. If one has positive equity in one's home (as in the house is worth more than the mortgage balance), then that doesnt count as net debt. This guy was pretty far in the hole.
posted 08-04-2006 03:11 PM ET (US)
Interesting comment from Tom Stempien, Lana's father. His preception is that the effort from the Rutherford family to look for their son is lacking. What a thinly veiled shot.
I spent the last week of June and July in Cedarville. Everywhere we went it seemed there were flyers with photos, etc., on this story. The Hessel Bay Inn, Hessel Grocery, The Islander, Cedarville Foods, The Fogcutter in De Tour, on and on. Fresh, recently placed flyers, not left over from last year. Following the story, as I have, the sheer number of them caught my eye.
posted 08-04-2006 08:51 PM ET (US)
I spoke--off the record--with some people associated with the Prosecutor's Office in Wayne County who actually knew both of these people--Lana and her boyfriend. Their unofficial opinion was the guy was still alive and on the run. Interest in this story does not seem to be going away. I expect this will remain a topic of discussion and perhaps investigation for some time.
posted 09-16-2006 09:11 AM ET (US)
Looks like Greta Van Susteren is doing this story Sunday 9/17 @ 10p Fox News...
posted 09-21-2006 03:29 PM ET (US)
Hello all: I just found this board when I was doing some research regarding this strange story. I have watched most of the TV specials that have been done regarding the incident and have found them very interesting. My husband and I sailed our 27 foot C&C on Lake Superior for 10 years and never made it to Mackinaw, but it was one of our dreams -- that and the Georgian Bay area.
One thing that really jumped out at me was the fact they found the boat idling with a long line off the stern. I don't know about other boaters, but when we went swimming or stopping for lunch, etc., we threw out our lunch hook, secured the line, turned our engine off, made sure we weren't dragging and then went swimming, fishing, eating lunch or whatever. We absolutely NEVER went into the water without the boat being anchored AND the engine (diesl) off. So for an experienced boater, trained by her Coast Guard father to do this is a red flag for me. I just have a hard time believing that any boater on any one of the Great Lakes would ever go into the water without their boat being anchored and/or turning the engine off.
I also have a hard time believing that anyone (especially a female) would go skinny dipping in that cold water. I've been in it prepared with covering to clear a prop or check a thru-hull, but never, never skinny dipping -- way too cold.
The GPS writing over itself seems logical to me, but the knob in her shoe seems strange.
The other thing that seems strange is the fact that she went into the lake with her Omega watch on since she just paid $300 to have it cleaned, etc. Seems strange also.
This case reminds me of the Muff Graham case on Palmyra Island so long ago, very similar where her body was found ashore in a trunk by another sailor, but to my knowledge Mac's body has never shown up anywhere.
It will be interesting to see what turns up in the future. The early death certificate and uncommunicative nature of the Rutherford family seems out of character in this type of case also. Interesting read. Thanks. Moey
posted 09-21-2006 07:32 PM ET (US)
There's no mystery to the GPS writing over its old track
line: They do that. They have a certain size track buffer,
when it fills, they write over the oldest entries. In
software, this is called a "circular buffer". In some
cases, the GPS will have an option for some other behavior,
such as ceaseing to record the track, but on every unit I've
seen (I own four, and have researched a number of others),
the default is to wrap.
I do admit that the case is quite mysterious.
The case of the Grahams is much less mysterious: an ex-con
posted 09-22-2006 09:30 AM ET (US)
I never even thought the knob in the shoe was that strange.
That type of knob is used to facilitate removable electronics, like many vhf radios. The knob(s) often come loose in active seas and mine have completely backed out a few times. They are typically a small diameter thread with a relatively large diameter flat knob to aid hand torquing.
Drop one on the deck and its not unusual for it to land with the threads straight up. Hop out of your captain's chair with a typical athletic shoe and land on it and the knob will penetrate the shoe. I proved that in my garage.
The boat in this case has a removable electronic device at the helm that could be a source for the knob. The captain's chair is typical height and you would at least occasionally hop in and out of it. And the boat was known to be operating in rough seas on the day of the event.
posted 09-22-2006 02:34 PM ET (US)
Chuck: I know the man was convicted mainly on the testimony of his girlfriend, however, the thing that remains mysterious to me is that Mac Graham's body has never surfaced. Something that Bugliosi wrote at the end of his book "And The Sea Shall Tell" makes me believe that it is a distinct possibility that Mac Graham was not killed on Palmyra. Of course this is just my opinion.
There are too many things regarding the Lake Huron incident that add up to foul play for me anyway. I just don't buy any Great Lakes boater (especially one with training) jumping in the water nude, no anchor out, with the engine running in neutral and certainly never, never with an extended line off the aft. Those were always big no no's on our boat. Interesting mystery. Moey
posted 09-22-2006 08:22 PM ET (US)
I always thought Mac Graham was made to "walk the plank"
somewhere off Palmyra. Nothing strange about that, esp.
given the characters involved.
I completely agree that the Great Lakes situation is VERY
posted 09-22-2006 09:13 PM ET (US)
I had never heard the 'walk the plank' theory. I've read Buglosi's book and saw the movie, but of course who knows what really happened as there were no eye witnesses and I'm sure Hollywood takes lots of liberties in making movies.
As far as the Lake Huron boaters, I'm sure there cold have been a third or fourth party involved, it does not have to mean that Rutherford is alive and well somewhere. One just doesn't know for sure - not enough clues or at least clues that the authorities have released anyway.
I just think it is suspicious that a boater would go swimming without anchoring and with the engine idling with a line off the aft -- something doesn't add up there for me. Moey
posted 09-22-2006 10:26 PM ET (US)
Perhaps , the woman was sunbathing nude when overcome by carbon monoxide on the fantail of the boat and fell in. She had an expensive watch on that would not be taken in the water normally. Perhaps he jumped in to save her and drowned as well as he was possibly wearing shoes and shorts. Just a WAG (wild *** guess) High Sierra
posted 09-22-2006 11:03 PM ET (US)
Could be. However, why would someone be sunbathing nude with no anchor out, the boat engine in idle with a long line aft? In a small lake that is warm, perhaps. In the Great lakes, I just don't see it, especially not with an experienced boater as Lana was. JMHO though. Moey
posted 09-23-2006 11:47 AM ET (US)
I know we are just speculating here, but on the TV investigation(?), they were saying her blood levels had a high level of carbon monoxide, exactly how high they did'nt say. This is indicative of such an accident. Teak surfing brought that problem to the forefront. Out here in the west, not anchoring is not unusual. You just drift as the water is too deep normally. 30 feet from shore is at times 200 feet deep. The long line is used to keep hold of the boat while in the water so it doesn't get too far away. Just a WAG. High Sierra
posted 09-23-2006 11:57 AM ET (US)
I've always thought accident. From what I could read, it it seemed highly unlikely the man could pull off the perfect crime.
The bounding probability then would be that which defines the likelihood of a person falling out of a boat. It happens offshore here in Florida every now and then.
A co-worker fell out on the way to the Bahamas. The boat of a guy in the neighborhood came ashore on autopilot empty. And a veteran boater was lost crossing the straits of Florida solo as part of a group of boats in radio contact. There have been a few others in the past 25 years.
The nudity does not appear to be significant. A poll of boaters asking how many have taken some form of an 'adult' trip would result in a doule-digit percentage of 'yays';) (this was a Wellcraft, not a BW). And, this was a young attractive couple alone on a long weekend of boating.
Given the above, the remainder of the scenario would follow a script. A person falling out would surely generate recovery action, like circling back and throwing out a stern line. If the person is fading the person in the boat has little choice but to throttle back to idle and risk entering the water or watch their comrade go under.
posted 09-23-2006 02:46 PM ET (US)
Say the one person remained on board, threw out the aft line and was circling -- what happened to that person who was on the boat??
Also what happened to the blue fenders that were not part of the boat's equipment prior to the Coast Guard getting to the boat's location; who took them? The witness saw the blue fenders, but when the Coast Guard arrived they were not there.
In a regular lake I can understand no anchor, however in the Great Lakes with the very cold water (having spent a lot of time in it myself) I just don't see that type of thing as common and certainly not going in for a 'skinny dip.' For the most part the Great lakes are very unforgiving if you end up in the water and with her training and experience I really don't think she would do something like that. But of course I'm only speculating, who knows what happened, it really is a mystery.
I thought I heard on one of the interview shows that the Co2 was 13%, but I could have that wrong. They apparently tested for leaks in the cabin and did not find any. The swim ladder was up when the Coast Guard got there, so that seems strange for having been in for a dip also.
posted 09-25-2006 01:33 PM ET (US)
Moey - the water wasn't that cold. NOAA bouy data archive show that the mid-lake surface temperatures in mid-August 05 were in the low 70s. Closer to shore, the temperatures are typically a few degrees warmer. Certainly not too cold to preclude a skinny dip on a hot day.
posted 09-25-2006 02:26 PM ET (US)
Yes, that is pretty warm for that time of year.
Do you think she would have gone in the water without anchoring and leave the engine in neutral???
I'm not a power boater, we sailed on Lake Superior and I know we never left the boat without anchoring or tieing off if in a remote area. So I guess I really can't say what power boaters might do. It just seemed strange to me.
posted 09-25-2006 11:14 PM ET (US)
Who knows? People do dumb things all the time. Last summer a guy (on a sailboat) jumped off of the stern of a sailboat as a joke on a hot day while the boat was under sail, came up once, went under and wasn't seen agin until they recovered his body weeks later. This was right off of the Superior, WI, harbor entry. Another guy died when he jumped over the side of his 25 foot powerboat to try to fend it off rip-rap against a 3 or 4 foot sea when his engine died. He died soon after when he was crushed between the boat and the rocks.
I have spent enough time on Lake Superior, both cruising and racing sailboats, as well as plenty of time on my whaler, from the Keewenaw all the way around to the Canadian north shore to say will great certainty, that no-one type of boater has cornered the market on stupidity, or even doing mildly dumb things that get them into big trouble.
To say - "sailors wouldn't do that, maybe powerboaters would", shows either inexperience or prejudice. In fact, I would have to say some of the stupidist things I have ever seen done on the water were by the crew of a sailboat I was racing against on Lake Superior in a race from Bayfield to Grand Marais. Lets just say no one was seriously injured and the owner got away with having to buy a new mast and some sails.
posted 09-26-2006 02:24 PM ET (US)
I was not speaking disparagingly about power boaters. I just have no experience power boating on the Great Lakes. Yes I've seen lots of stupid stuff done by people in sail boats, the dumbest was a group on a large sailboat off Stockton Island, they came into the bay for the night, literally threw an anchor overboard, jumped into the dingy and went to shore. No checking to see if the anchor was set, the right scope out or anything, just bang and off to shore.
Later that night when winds changed they learnred a hard lesson about setting an anchor properly. So no one group hold the record for doing things without thinking.
My apologizes to any power boater who thought I was being disrespectful to them. Moey
posted 10-12-2006 12:13 AM ET (US)
Transcript of the piece on Dateline:
posted 10-12-2006 07:54 AM ET (US)
A very interesting story. No where in the MSNBC transcript is there a mention that the GPS issue could be entirely normal.
posted 10-12-2006 09:37 AM ET (US)
I watched the show last night. Apparently the guy had a temper. My personal opinion - the guy is in a foreign country and his parents are helping him. But like I said, it's my personal opinion and everybody has one.
What struck me as really strange is that his parents won't let her parents come into the house to retrieve her belongings yet they gave her parents a list of things of his they want back. I guess these things were on the boat.
How did they know what to put on the list ? Right down to toothpaste.
The blue fenders are somewhat of a mystery. If not for the fact that the girl didn't own any blue fenders, I would think maybe they had thrown a line out and were holding onto it while swimming.
And the knob imbedded in the sole of the running shoe. That would take some force for that to happen and wouldn't she have reached down and taken it out immediately ? Very strange case. I hope they solve it but the state police didn't seem too concerned about continuing the investigation.
posted 10-24-2006 02:53 PM ET (US)
One of the many puzzling factors in this case is the presence of two blue bumpers (fenders) reported to have been tied to a 30-40' line, which in turn was rigged from the stern of Lana's boat.
It is my understanding that such an arrangement is sometimes used as an aid for swimmers when in the water adjacent to the vessel. As such,it would appear to be an indication of normalcy, and not of an emergency situation.
One of the theories as to what happened involves a possible emergency, in which either Chuck or Lana went accidentally overboard, and was then followed by the other in a failed attempt at rescue. The rigging of the bumpers as described above would not support this theory, to my understanding.
Additionally, none of Lana's family or friends have any recollection of blue bumpers being aboard Lana's vessel. Her family can locate no record of such bumpers having been purchased during the trip in question.
Also, when boarded by the Coast Guard, the vessel's radio was playing loudly, and the engine was at idle. It was drifting; the anchor had not been lowered. The boarding occurred during the late morning of the day after Lana's last phonecall, which she made at 1:59pm on August 11th, 2005.
I'd appreciate any thoughts the participants of this board could provide concerning the significance, or insignificance, of these circumstances.
posted 10-24-2006 04:58 PM ET (US)
Well, at least one thing appears to have been cleared up. According to a Detroit Free Press report, the GPS track was not mysteriously erased as the Dateline story suggests. http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061003/NEWS04/ 610030376/1006 . As several people suggested earlier in this thread, the GPS track was over-writing itself.
posted 10-28-2006 04:13 PM ET (US)
Well, I think the blue fenders are significant since there is absolutely no evidence that she ever had/used blue fenders. Whose were they and where did they end up, who took them???
Now, I think I've said this before and let me qualify what I am going to say with the fact that I am a sailor, not a powerboater (which is nothing against powerboaters), just perhaps we do things a little differently sometimes.
I don't recall a time ever while sailing/anchoring on Lake Superior that we ever went in swimming with our engine at idle, no anchor out with line off the aft, even supported by fenders. If we were swimming the boat's anchor was set, engine was off and no lines were overboard.
I understand the theory of having a line overboard, we did that in Hawaii when snorkeling where there was quite a current, but there were two people on board the boat, one manning the engine and one just keeping an eye generally on the snorkelers.
The fact that the engine was idleing, unaccounted fenders seen, and no anchor out does not equal swimming (volnutarily) to me. But then I am a suspicious sort anyway.
posted 10-28-2006 08:51 PM ET (US)
MMMM, I just noticed something. There have been a number
of statements that it was her boat. But in jimh's post
08-25-2005 08:35 the CG says dad said she borrowed the boat.
posted 10-29-2006 12:07 PM ET (US)
One theory I have heard regarding the line with the blue fenders is that it was a line that the boat ran over and became tangled in. Chuck slipped into the water off of the swim platform without using the ladder to try to untangle the line while Lana stayed at the helm. He was overcome by fumes and cold and started to struggle. Lana tried to pull him aboard but he was too heavy and weak to assist her. She lost her balance trying to pull him aboard and ended up in the water with him. She would struggle to boost him aboard from the water, all the while breathing in the exhaust fumes. At some point the boat got away from them and the wind blew the boat faster than they could swim. The line might not have been that tangled and might have come off on its own, after some had seen it but before the GC showed up.
Another theory is that Chuck was taking a pee off the back of the boat and fell in. As stated a few posts above, the nudity thing isn't that rare in a wider age range than you would think. Nude with boat shoes or sandles is common too. A quickie in the cabin before hitting land would explain her nudity with the watch still on. The empty vodka bottle might imply that Chuck was drunk even though she wasn't according to the tox report. The boat was in idle while they were in the cabin. He left her in the cabin to go relieve himself off the back of the boat. She heard him go overboard and rushed to the back of the boat, stepping on a knob that was on the floor. She couldn't walk with the knob in the shoe and tried to get the knob out, but decided to quickly take off her shoes instead. The rest is as above with her in the water, unable to get him back aboard and too exhausted to keep up with the blowing boat.
posted 10-29-2006 07:01 PM ET (US)
Moey, Phil, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
There's been debate about whether or not "Sea's Life" could have drifted away from Lana and Chuck and thus condemned them to ultimately drown.
It seems that Lana's last call at 16:59 UTC on 11 August 2005 was the approximate start of whatever chain of events resulted in her death.
Unfortunately, we don't have any GPS data indicating how fast Lana's boat was drifting at that time. The first drift track we have doesn't begin until early the next morning.
The wind data from the three closest reporting stations show the winds increasing in velocity and changing direction from the evening of the 11th through the time Lana's boat was boarded at a bit before 4PM UTC the next day. A high pressure center, which had given relative calm and sunny conditions on the 11th, was moving off to the east during this time.
The average drift speed for the first hour (the GPS was recording trackpoints every 10 to 15 seconds) was 1.2584 knots. This interval included instantaneous speeds of between 1.0 and 2.0 knots for the first hour.
For the several hours of drifting recorded after that, as the winds were generally increasing in velocity, and until the Coast Guard boarded "Sea's Life", though the average drift speed incresed, the highest instantaneous speed was still 2.0 knots.
Chuck and Lana were both described as strong swimmers, and only one of them would have had to reach the boat in order to return it to the other. A good time in the 1500 meter freestyle calculates out to over 3 knots, and that includes turns in the swimming pool.
So, the theory that "Sea's Life" drifted away seems unlikely to me.
Your thoughts and comments are most appreciated.
One additional question: is the practice of tying bumpers to a line rigged from the stern of a vessel as an aid to swimmers in any way a regional practice, or something which would be done most anywhere?
posted 10-29-2006 09:47 PM ET (US)
FWIW, divers will use a "current line". It's 50-200' of
1/4" polypropylene line with a fender on the end, and
sometimes a couple of fenders or pool line floats in
between. It's put out when there's significant current
because it's easier to pull yourself upcurrent than to swim.
Poly is used for two reasons: 1) it floats, 2) it doesn't
stretch, so it's easier to pull yourself back.
posted 10-30-2006 04:58 PM ET (US)
In the November 2006 Boat US magazine, on page 36, is a piece discussing a study conducted that shows that Express Cruisers are at risk for trapping carbon dioxide near the stern and in the cockpit, even when the boat is moving. I thought of this case while reading the piece, as that seems to be the type of boat in question in this case.
posted 10-30-2006 05:02 PM ET (US)
I misquoted; I should have said carbon MONoxide.
posted 10-30-2006 05:05 PM ET (US)
It's no different than driving a station wagon with the back window open...
posted 10-30-2006 09:03 PM ET (US)
I wonder if this story would be less newsworthy if you substituted "Nude Hot Young Blond Lawyer and Her Allegedly Abusive Boyfriend" with "Retired Couple Has Boating Accident" Dateline makes ratings by making the story a story. We could take almost any boating accident and turn it into a twisted salacious tale of deceit and treachery. "Greeny Kayaker Tries in Vain to Sink Gas Guzzling Boat by Ramming Its Hull, Only to Realize It's a Whaler" At some point we have to realize it's probably just an accident.
posted 10-30-2006 11:37 PM ET (US)
BrianG, are you related/involved in the case somehow?
Is the nakedness such a big clue? I thought if you drowned, your clothes would eventually wash away if you were floating around for any length of time. Did they find clothes in the boat as if they disrobed for a swim or whatever?
As for the line, either they rigged the line themselves to go for a swim or it was from Chuck's accomplice/getaway boat and they forgot to take it with them after doing in the lady. You would have to see how it was tied, where the fenders were etc., to get a feel for if it was consistent with swim line or if it looked like a forgotten "dock" line used to raft up at sea with the accomplices.
posted 10-31-2006 11:42 AM ET (US)
Lana was a dear friend, and I've offered my assistance to her family in helping determine what happened on that terrible day. I'm not a professional investigator, but am a graduate engineer and flight instructor, and am well-practiced in root-cause analysis, background which may prove helpful in sorting the facts from all of the speculation and conjecture which surround this case.
I want to find the truth, no matter what that truth may be, and in my view that is exactly what Lana would want as well. I can best honor her memory by maintaining that standard.
Concerning Lana's nudity when her body was found, the Michigan State Police Sergeant, Sgt. Sexton, stated that clothing would neither disintegrate or come off during the time period (13 days) in which Lana is believed to have been in the water. He further stated that clothing would have left marks on her body, marks which were not present at her autopsy.
While we can't say for certain that ALL of Lana's clothing was present when her vessel was boarded by the Coast Guard, there was an amount present consistent with what would be expected to be brought on such a trip.
As you indicate, the manner in which the line was affixed to Lana's vessel is of critical importance (see below). The individual who first found the vessel abandoned is positive that the line was present, however the Coast Guard did not report the line present when they arrived on the scene about an hour later. Yet, the line is mentioned in the Coast Guard's activity reports, which another poster to this board has previously cited.
There are at least two troubling things about the bumpers:
1. None of Lana's friends have any recollection of her ever having had blue bumpers, only white ones. The attendant at the last point where Lana fueled confirmed that he saw only blue bumpers. Lana's family has reviewed her credit card statements and found no record of blue bumpers having been purchased. Plus, they called every known marine store and marina along the route in question, and found no indication that blue bumpers had been bought. While it's not impossible that Lana had blue bumpers, there's no evidence to indicate that she did. Thus, the theory that another boat was somehow involved.
2. The man who found Lana's vessel illustrated for "Dateline" how he observed the bumpers to be rigged, described as "oddly tied together". If they were tied in this manner, it could indicate that they were intended to be an aid to swimmers adjacent to Lana's boat, and thus be a sign of normalcy. But, there is a great amount of evidence which points away from the "Skinny-dip gone wrong" scenario, and I find an accident scenario more plausible.
Of course, there are also a number of scenarios which involve foul play.
At this point, I am open to all possibilities, though I feel some are highly unlikely, and others still reasonable.
Any thoughts the posters on this board would wish to share will be most welcome.
Here's a link to a Dateline MSNBC "Beneath the Blue Waters" web page, which deals with Lana's case:
Thanks again for your input.
posted 10-31-2006 11:44 AM ET (US)
Correction, the attendant where Lana fueld saw only WHITE bumpers, sorry about that!
posted 11-01-2006 11:25 AM ET (US)
Having been a Sergeant assigned to the Homicide Section of the Detroit Police Department, Squad 7 Felony Murder Squad (when that would have been a statement of pride and people would have been impressed by it) for the last six years of my career, I've seen many different homicide/death scenes on land and in the water.
A predominant number of the scenes we investigated, we knew what happened before we left the scene, we only had to positively identify who was there to finish the investigation.
The Scene will tell the story, maybe not all the time, but many more times than not. I think the Michigan State Police made a big mistake releasing the boat at all in this case, If I was handling the investigation the boat would be in inside storage at this time. If the family wanted it back and got a judge to release it, then there's nothing that could be done about that. But something could be learned later in an investigation that would require you going back to the scene, what scene? Lana's Father has been cruising around in the scene all this summer.
As far as the blue fenders, I would be more interested in the line that was attached to the blue fenders. Did it match the other lines on the boat or was it different. How was it tied, in a marine type knot or in a knot not used by the boating community. Was it tied by a left handed person or a right handed person.
I'm not saying I can't be wrong (just ask my wife), but I think Chuck Rutherford's body will eventually turn up, I knew him when he was a young prosecutor with Wayne County, While I was at the Homicide Section and personally, I'd be surprised if he had the ability to orchestrate the unsolvable crime.
posted 11-01-2006 01:26 PM ET (US)
I meant to mention that one of the reasons I would be more interested in the line the blue fenders were attached to rather than the blue fenders themselves is because who knows, the fenders could have been purchased by or a gift from Chuck to Lana, maybe he purchased them with cash from a very busy cashier, I have been following reports on this case, but have not gone out of my way searching out articles and/or TV shows about it. I just read the Dateline piece by Chris Hanson, after my last post. Did they recover the fenders and line or didn't they?
Part of my reason for questioning about the line is that as an example, in Hangings the implement used, rope, extension cords, etc are always recovered as evidence with the knots in tact, so they can be analyzed as to how the knot was tied, by a left or right handed person, trace evidence, etc
posted 12-20-2006 01:19 AM ET (US)
posted 12-20-2006 08:48 AM ET (US)
It doesn't sound like CourtTV has anything new.
posted 12-20-2006 09:30 AM ET (US)
The story also appears in the latest issue of Boating magazine, but again, it appears that they have nothing new to report.
posted 12-20-2006 01:51 PM ET (US)
The Boating Magazine article touches on an interesting aspect, namely satellite photos. I've seen this discussed elsewhere but to date have not read of any case where they've actually been used in a public investigation such as this.
In the article Roger Gamblin claims that he has source(s) within the government that confirm satellite photo evidence exists which could help resolve a similar case involving his friend Jim Trindade. In that case, Trindade's boat was found empty and idling offshore between Florida and the Bahamas a day after being reported missing. Other similarities include GPS anomalies and no (reported) sign of a crime (although many disimilarities exist).
The reason photos may exist in the Trindade case according to the article is due to the fact that President Bush was in Palm Beach at the time. Air Force One's departure was scheduled to take place about the time a search was being launched for Trindade. Therefore, satellite(s) were trained on the straits of Florida during this timeframe.
posted 12-20-2006 02:02 PM ET (US)
The legal profession needs to be sued. The People of the United States vs the Lieyers. The contention, they have made the country non competitive, created an "airbag" world of false security, destroyed our jobs, limited personal choice and freedom, stolen our right to expose ourselves to danger.
This is just another attempt to steal money from another industry further insuring there will be no jobs in the future or choices to make.
posted 12-20-2006 07:34 PM ET (US)
In my 30+ years of Great Lakes boating we have often used a line tied to a stern cleat with a throw ring or other floating object tied to the other end when swimming in open water especially in wind or current. Never thought twice about it, seemed like common sense.
I was on my 170 Montauk in Northern Michigan the day the boat was found and I heard everything unfold on the Coast Gaurd channel 22 on my vhf in real time as it happened. It was a warm day and even though the water in Lake Huron may have been chilly a swim would not have been out of the question in my opinion. I was working on my boat at the time and went swimming to cool off afterward (granted not in Lake Huron).
The thing that has always struck me as odd is why the boater who found the boat drifting didn't stay with the vessel. He just calls it in and continues on his way? I have found small boats adrift or in distress (out of gas) and always stayed with them until the situation is rectified. Had he stayed with the vessel they would have the line with the blue fenders that he's sure he saw (he's the only witness to the missing line and fenders). I'm sure it has no bearing on the case but it still seems odd to me.
posted 12-21-2006 12:41 PM ET (US)
If there ever WAS a line with blue fenders, the answer to where they are is probably as simple as "hey, free fenders" from another boat that happened upon this one floating out there. Maybe those folks thought nothing of it, and then realizing it was related to a disappearance, decided not to get involved.
posted 05-29-2008 09:22 AM ET (US)
Partial remains of a body have been found near Cheboygan, Michigan, which may be the remains of Charles Rutherford. See: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080528/NEWS05/80528054
posted 05-29-2008 09:21 PM ET (US)
Thanks very much for the update and pointer. I missed this story in the paper. I think everyone will be interested to know if the body can be positively identified as being the other missing boater from this incident.
posted 05-29-2008 11:02 PM ET (US)
Apparently authorities are hoping that [the body] is one of two missing men, Rutherford or a pilot. In some odd way, I hope it is the pilot, because I have always suspected Rutherford. Either way, one sad and expectant family is going to get an overdue answer.
posted 05-30-2008 09:08 AM ET (US)
Here's another report that includes mention of people having jumped off of the Mackinac Bridge.
posted 08-29-2009 11:12 PM ET (US)
Though it's been more than a year since the unidentified remains were recovered, there has still been no information released on the findings of any DNA analysis.
posted 08-30-2009 11:55 AM ET (US)
Michigan State Police Scientific Lab has a huge backlog of DNA Test requests, 6 months to a year at least
posted 08-31-2009 08:57 AM ET (US)
This case intrigued me from the start. The actual reported events, facts, and the ultimate tragic ending are facinating. My heart goes out to the families involved.
What's just as interesting has been the various reactions of the general public, ranging between simple accident to conspiracy and foul play. Either way, it helps illustrate some of the things that can go wrong out on the water. And what a fine line there often is between safety and tragedy.
posted 08-31-2009 11:34 AM ET (US)
People go missing on the water out here all the time. Just last weekend we lost three people in two seperate incidents. No boat, no bodies, just three mourning wives.
The Coast Guard searches, they find nothing, the families mourn, and the news cycle moves on... How this Great Lakes case, or the case of the football players in Florida manages to garner so much attention perplexes me.
posted 08-31-2009 07:21 PM ET (US)
The Florida football players got coverage because of the NFL
This one got coverage because of the possible foul-play angle,
posted 09-15-2013 07:16 PM ET (US)
Looks to me like a simple case of [article deleted. Please do not revive eight-year-old discussions only to invent fictional outcomes for unsolved crimes. --jimh]
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