A Shelby man has been identified as the boat driver missing in Sunday’s fishing pond incident

A Shelby man has been identified as the boat driver missing in Sunday’s fishing pond incident

PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP — The body of a Shelby man, recovered Sunday after he was reported missing in a Plymouth Township pond, will be transported to the Montgomery County coroner’s office for an autopsy.

The victim has been identified as Zachary Willis, 24, of Shelby, said Bob Ball, chief investigator with the Richland County Coroner’s Office.

Willis’ body was recovered Sunday afternoon in a Plymouth town pond near West London Road.

The boat capsized Saturday night

The Plymouth Fire Department was dispatched Saturday at 9:18 p.m. to a capsized boat with victims in the water in the area of ​​4652 West London Road in the Town of Plymouth.

The Shelby Fire Department was also dispatched and responded to the scene, Plymouth Fire Chief Richard Metzger said in a news release.

Upon arrival, two victims were found outside the water, while the other was still in the water in an unknown location. One victim was taken to OhioHealth Shelby Hospital, the chief said.

Then the crews at the scene began searching for the missing victim.

He said the search area consisted of a nine-acre pond — referred to as Mackey’s Pond — with extensive water and bank growth, located in a field at the location in question.

“(The pond) might be a little bigger,” Metzger said during an interview Monday. Source Richland.

“But as (the bank and water) grew, there was actually nine acres of open surface.”

Investigators with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told Metzger that the three victims went into the water to fish, noting that he did not speak with the victims directly.

Emergency personnel and additional resources responded throughout Saturday evening from the following agencies: Willard Fire Department Dive Team, Shelby Fire Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Ashland County Sheriff’s Dive Team, Willard Police (drone), Bucyrus Fire Department (lighting), Dept. Mansfield Fire Department (drone), Sandusky Fire Department Dive Team, Shelby Police Department, and Ohio State Patrol Aviation Unit.

A truck with a boat attached behind it in the field
Officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recover a boat from Mackey Pond in Plymouth Township Sunday afternoon. Credit: Hayden Gray

The search was paused around 1 a.m. Sunday

Metzger said a rigorous search was conducted by placing people “in the water” wearing buoyancy suits, as well as with divers, by boat and using multiple drones.

He said lighting was being provided by the OSP Aviation Unit and Bucyrus Fire at this time.

At approximately 1:05 a.m., Metzger said the search was canceled after discussion by all participants and input from their medical director.

Resuscitation efforts began Sunday morning

Crews returned to the scene Sunday around 8 a.m. to begin recovery efforts.

The president said rescue efforts included searching the pond with drones, searching for bodies with dogs, and surface searches with boats.

Plymouth Fire Company was assisted in the recovery process by the following agencies: Willard Fire Dept. Dive Team, Shelby Fire Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Ashland County Sheriff’s Dive Team, Willard Police (drone), ODNR, Ohio Special Response Team, Richland County EMA and Richland County Coroner’s Office.

At approximately 3:10 p.m., Metzger said the missing boat was located and recovered by first responders.

He added that the deceased was taken out of the water and turned over to the Richland County Coroner’s Office.

Responders faced many challenges while trying to locate Willis’ body, Metzger said.

“There have been conflicting reports about where he may have fallen,” he said. “As night falls, people get a little disoriented at night around the water.”

“It was just trying to focus on that (Willis’s possible location) the night it happened. Then the same thing happened yesterday (Sunday).”

He added that there were no casualties among members of the responding entities during the search, rescue and recovery operation, which lasted two days.

The investigation into this incident is being conducted by ODNR, RCSO and the Richland County Coroner’s Office, Metzger said.

Below is a PDF showing the press release issued by Plymouth Fire Chief Richard Metzger.

Plymouth Fire Chief thanks the community for support

Metzger said it was difficult for responders to leave Sunday afternoon once efforts were over.

“There were a lot of people there. We did our best,” he said.

“We (responders) all put ourselves in the family’s shoes. When we were trying to rescue, we wanted to get him out. We wanted there to be a chance.”

“It was a mental struggle for the people who were there, because it was just the frustration of, ‘We need to get closure for this family.’ And fortunately, we were able to do that.”

Metzger added that the Plymouth Fire Department would like to extend its sincere thanks to all who assisted throughout the event.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of resources available to help with events like this,” he added.

“We would also like to thank McDonald’s and Wendy’s Shelby for donating food and drinks, Kurtzman Sanitation, and the many people who stopped by and gave us food and drinks.

“Our department would like to remind boaters to use flotation devices while on the water and to take an approved boating safety training course.”

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