August 8, 2002 at 4:17 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 4:00 AM
MARBLEHEAD, Ohio (AP) - Scott Speer hoped somehow his best friend might have made it to shore even though he wasn't wearing a life jacket when he fell in Lake Erie and disappeared Tuesday.
Instead, Speer found the body of James Barnett, 41, of Rittman, Wednesday night at a Lake Erie reef. Barnett's half brother Roger Young and brother-in-law Terry Keen helped Speer search even after the Coast Guard stopped looking a few hours before he was found.
"The Coast Guard gave up on him. His family had to find him," his sister, Theresa Barnett, told the Akron Beacon Journal. "My mother will have some closure now."
Speer, 37, of Fairlawn, was driving his boat to Catawba Island around 2 a.m. when Barnett was pitched out in rough water about 200 yards from Mouse Island Reef, a swatch of land with tree-lined shores close to the edge of the lake.
Speer said Barnett reached for a steel pipe to steady himself but fell overboard when the boat veered in waves. Speer yelled for his friend, threw a life preserver, then called 911 on his cell phone, he said.
The Coast Guard station at Marblehead was notified Wednesday evening that Barnett's body was found. A Coast Guard boat carrying Barnett's body left Mouse Island Reef at about 8 p.m. and headed for the station, so the body could be delivered to a coroner.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)