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Two die after race boat capsizes in Chicago to Mackinac Race

4:31 PM, Jul 18, 2011   |    comments
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  • C.J. Cummings

(WZZM)-The United States Coast Guard has removed the bodies of two boaters whose sailing vessel capsized in Lake Michigan
There were eight crew members aboard the 35-foot sailboat, taking part in the Chicago to Mackinac race. The boat capsized near the Fox Islands, miles off the coast of Charlevoix. Those rescued include 16-year-old Christopher "C.J." Cummings of Grandville.

"He has sailed in many races. This was his first Chicago to Mackinaw race," says Chip Cummings, CJ's dad. He was part of an 8-person crew aboard the sailing vessel "Wing Nuts" out of Saginaw. "The other crew members are very experienced sailors. They've done this race before and many others. And one of them has even sailed around the world."

Cummings says his son was in good hands. On Sunday night, they were prepared for the storm. The sails were down and the boat was in position. "Then, all of the sudden the wind was over 40 knots and it was going like crazy." The wind flipped the boat. "One of the other members was CJ's buddy. He was able to un-tether himself from the boat and come down and un-tether CJ, which allowed them to swim around and get on top of the boat."

At the time, Cummings didn't know if his son had been found. He received a call around midnight saying he had activated his personal locator beacon. "So, probably a good 5 hours without knowing. It was heart wrenching, brutal as a parent."

CJ and five others were picked up by another crew. Several hours later, search crews found the bodies of Wing Nuts owner 51-year old Mark Morley and 41-year old Suzanne Bickel.

For the Cummings family, it was bitter-sweet news. Two had been lost, but six had survived.
Among those who were saved, 15-year old Stuart Morley and his 47-year old dad, Peter, from Midland, 51-year old John Dent of Ann Arbor, 51-year old Stan Dent of Midland, and 46-year old Lee Purcey of Chicago.


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