Body Of Fourth Missing Swimmer Recovered

HURON, Ohio (AP) - The last of four swimmers who authorities believed drowned last week while trying to rescue a friend in Lake Erie has been found dead, fire officials said.

The body was recovered by rescuers about 5:50 a.m. Sunday at the mouth of the Huron River. The bodies of three other swimmers were recovered Saturday in the same area, just east of where the men disappeared.

The victim's families identified the bodies, but there was no official identification from the Lucas County coroner's office, which will perform autopsies.

On Saturday, a fisherman reported the first body about 6 a.m. and a rescue boat recovering it found the second, fire Chief John Zimmerman said.

The third body was found at 1:30 p.m. about 300 feet away. All three were floating near the 25-foot-deep shipping channel of the river.

The four disappeared amid 5-foot waves on Wednesday while trying to reach a friend who had been knocked down and swept out by a current at Nickel Plate Beach near Huron, about 50 miles west of Cleveland.

Firefighters eventually rescued the woman, Amy Renee Anderson, 22, but her fiance, Steve Cupec, 27, and friends Jehrod Smith, 19, Kyle Kroetz, 29, and Matthew Smith, 21, couldn't be found.

Divers had been searching the area since then and boat crews used sonar and dragged chains to locate the bodies.

On the day the four disappeared, wind blew out of the east-northeast at about 34 mph, causing some of the worst conditions on the lake that Zimmerman said he had seen in his 31-year career.

The public beach has no lifeguards and was closed for swimming because of the danger, but people were allowed to sunbathe and picnic.

The five were warned not to swim by a city staff member at the park, said City Manager Mike Tann. Leaflets outlining the swimming ban also were passed out.

While the undertow in oceans is more severe and constant, it also can be dangerous in Lake Erie, said Andy McDowell, director of public programs for the Great Lakes Science Center.

Undertow is caused by a strong backwash from waves breaking on a beach. When waves reach over 6 feet, it's usually considered unsafe to swim, he said.

Last year there was a drowning at Nickel Plate beach and another one in 1999. On July 5, a 14-year-old girl had to be rescued by a private boater after she struggled against rough water.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)