By Ed Runyan
A man in his late 40s is dead and his son is missing after a fishing trip at a pond off Miller Graber Road, just east of Newton Falls, turned deadly. The men are thought to be from Mahoning County.
Mike Notovny, assistant chief of the Newton Falls Joint Fire District, said dragging crews from four fire departments found the older man about 20 to 30 yards offshore about 7 p.m. Sunday. His body was removed from the scene in an ambulance.
Novotny said the two men were father and son.
The dragging crews continued to search into the late evening for the second fisherman but called off the search when it got dark. He is believed to be about 20. Novotny declined to identify either man, saying only that the license plates on the pickup truck in which they arrived were from Mahoning County.
Dozens of people — apparently family members and friends of the fishermen — stood by watching the dragging operation late Sunday evening, but they declined to talk about who the men were.
A man identifying himself as a pastor asked a Vindicator reporter not to talk to the bystanders. Searchers set up their operations along the bank of the pond, which is accessible only by a gravel road running parallel to two sets of railroad tracks.
The dragging operation began around 5 p.m. Sunday after dive teams from the Trumbull and Mahoning county sheriff’s offices started early Sunday and spent about eight hours trying to find the fishermen, Novotny said.
Two juveniles first alerted authorities about 8 p.m. Saturday that something was wrong after they found a pickup truck near Rankin Pond and then a canoe part way in the water.
Firefighters from the Newton Falls Joint Fire District searched the banks of the pond, which is about a quarter mile off Miller Graber Road, but they had to discontinue that effort because of darkness, Novotny said.
The search picked up at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.
Novotny said he isn’t aware of anyone else who has ever drowned in the pond, and he didn’t know that people were using it as a fishing area until this incident.
“All we know is they went fishing yesterday and nobody had heard from them,” he said. “The assumption is [the other man] is still in the water.”
Based on that and other information, rescue personnel are concluding that the two had been fishing. The pond is a private pond, and the men did not own it, Novotny said.
The four fire departments that provided five boats and drag teams were Newton Falls, Champion, Lords-town and Warren Township. Family members removed the pickup truck, Novotny said.