Big Rapids man’s body recovered from Muskegon River

Muskegon River, Stanwood, Mecosta County, body, boater, fisherman
Authorities search the Muskegon River west of Stanwood for a fisherman who went missing in the water after being thrown from his boat. (June 26, 2016)

MECOSTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After several hours of searching Sunday, authorities recovered the body of a boater from the Muskegon River west of the village of Stanwood.

Police identified the victim on Monday as Lee Cooley, 47, of Big Rapids.

Emergency crews from Mecosta and Newaygo counties started searching the river in an area off of M-20 near the River Ridge Resort around 10 a.m. Just after 4:30 p.m., the body was found about a mile from the M-20 bridge in about 14 feet of water and about 50 yards offshore. Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell said low visibility contributed to the hours-long search.

Cooley was fishing with his 21-year-old daughter when their boat hit a log and both were thrown into the water, Purcell said. Both were wearing rain suits. Authorities said they think Cooley’s pants may have filled with water, contributing to the drowning.

The daughter survived.

Purcell warned that heavy rain dislodges debris along riverbanks and pushes it into the water, and also makes that debris difficult to see. He said boaters should understand the risks before heading out.

Sunday’s incident marked the second time in two days that crews pulled a body from the Muskegon River. The body of a 34-year-old Grand Rapids man was pulled from the river in Newaygo Saturday evening.

**Correction: Authorities earlier indicated the boat capsized; they later said that the boat did not capsize, but instead that its occupants were ejected into the water.



Michigan Department of Natural Resources: Boating

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