By Ed Runyan
A spokesman for the Division of Watercraft says interviews with the two survivors of a Nov. 24 boating accident on Mosquito Lake indicate the accident that killed their friend most likely resulted from overloading.
Daniel Khalil Jr. of Howland, Vito Amiano of Hubbard and Lou Lattin of Lake Milton had eight dozen duck decoys, two dozen geese decoys, shotguns and other equipment in a 16-foot aluminum boat.
“That’s a lot of equipment in a 16-foot boat. It suggests it was overloaded,” said John Wisse, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft, which is investigating the accident.
Khalil, 40, of Blue Winged Drive in Howland, died in the accident. The two other men were rescued by the Mecca Township Fire Department after holding onto flotation devices for about an hour.
Capacity plates required on certain boats by the U.S. Coast Guard indicate the number of people the boat can hold and number of pounds it can hold.
Wisse said he recommends following the pounds number to account for the amount of extra weight boaters might bring on board and the weight of boaters.
The Trumbull County coroner’s office confirmed that Khalil was a large man. His weight was between 310 and 320 pounds.
Wisse said Amiano, the owner of the boat, and Lattin reported finding some water in the bottom of the boat before they launched it from the marina at Mosquito Lake State Park, so they removed the drain plug and drained it.
They headed north about three-quarters of a mile from there about 6 a.m. and didn’t notice any problem with water in the boat, then turned west toward the shoreline. There were some waves and wind out of the west.
They decided against hunting there and headed south, at that point seeing water filling the bottom of the boat, Wisse said. They had not started hunting.
Within 10 seconds, water was coming over the bow of the boat, and it capsized, dumping all three men in the cold water.
Wisse said he doesn’t know for sure what the three men held onto, but they had two to three bags, each containing dozens of decoys, which float, and five flotational devices — four of the traditional “vest” type and one “seat-cushion” type.
None of the men was wearing a safety vest.
“The fatality victim apparently didn’t have access to anything that floats,” Wisse said, and “after 10 to 15 minutes, they didn’t hear anything” from him.”
It was dark, and the survivors couldn’t see what happened to Khalil, Wisse said.
The first person to hear the men yelling for help called 911 at 6:36 a.m., and the Mecca Township Fire Department was notified at 6:45 a.m. to respond with a rescue boat. The rescue boat was in the water at 7:14 a.m. and reached the men at 7:26 a.m. Both men were taken to St. Joseph Health Center in Warren for treatment of hypothermia and released.
Despite an exhaustive search, Khalil’s body was not found until about 4:30 p.m. by a hunter on the east side of the lake near St. Robert Church.
Wisse said boaters having life jackets in the boat but not on their body is unfortunately “very common,” so the Division of Watercraft encourages all boaters to wear a life jacket.
In addition to observing proper weight limits, boaters also should make sure the load in the boat is balanced because capsizing is one of the most common problems in boating.
“Also, dress for water temperatures,” Wisse said.
That means dress in layers of clothing that will trap body heat even when wet. Polypropylene or wool are good materials for such conditions. Avoid 100 percent cotton fabrics, the ODNR website says.