Strong winds capsized a small plank on Hoover Reservoir on Saturday

Authorities resumed searches Sunday to try to recover a person still missing after high winds capsized a small boat on Hoover Reservoir near Westerville north of Columbus on Saturday afternoon.

The Columbus Division of Police Dive Team was at the reservoir Sunday, said Stephanie O’Grady, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, whose watercraft officers assisted in the search Saturday.

The boat, with two people on board, capsized just after 2 p.m. Saturday due to strong winds raging through the area in conjunction with a passing storm front.

The 16- to 17-foot “jon” boat, a flat-bottomed boat used for fishing and hunting, was not far from shore when “the wind began to fill the boat with water, the boat capsized and the occupants began to swim ashore,” said Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for the Columbus Police Department, which has jurisdiction over the reservoir.

The person who made it ashore told authorities they saw the other person go under and couldn’t come back up.

The search for the missing person had to be suspended on Saturday due to poor weather conditions, ODNR said. The Columbus Police Department dive team on Sunday searched in 6-10 foot cold water that had been “churned up” by wind and waves on Saturday, Amato said.

“We will continue until evening until we find a body,” she said.

The two people in the boat may have been part of a fishing tournament. The Hoover Cats Fishing Club had scheduled an all-day tournament for Saturday, according to the group’s Facebook page, although attempts by The Dispatch to confirm the tournament was going on were unsuccessful.

“The Hoover Cats tournament will be held tomorrow barring the ramps unexpectedly flooding,” one member wrote in a Friday post. “I’ll be there early and cast for bait.”

But others were concerned about the harsh weather and at least one person said they would not risk the harsh conditions.

“Tomorrow will be bad. 60 mph gusts and winds approaching 50 mph. No safe time on the water,” wrote one member.

On Saturday, another Facebook post addressed the tragedy: “I pray for a life lost on Hoover today. Conditions were not ‘friendly’ for boating.”

The Hoover Reservoir is one of three water supply reservoirs for the city of Columbus and was created by the construction of the Hoover Dam on Big Walnut Creek. Because this is a water supply reservoir, personal watercraft are restricted to power boats 22 feet or less and 10 horsepower or less. Sailboats are limited to 25 feet in length.

The construction of the Hoover Dam on Big Walnut Creek, seen here in a September 2021 file photo, enabled the creation of Hoover Reservoir, one of three drinking water reservoirs for the city of Columbus.

ODNR reminds watercraft operators to check local weather conditions and advisories before venturing onto water bodies and to wear a life jacket.

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