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Authorities Recover Bodies Of Young Men Who Apparently Drowned While Fishing

LAWTON, Mich. (WWJ) - Authorities say the search for two young men who disappeared while fishing on a southwestern Michigan lake is over.

The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office confirmed that around 6:45 a.m. Thursday divers recovered the bodies of 20-year-old Calvin Chao and 17-year-old Chhay Wong, who presumably drowned at Bankson Lake near Lawton.

A search began Wednesday around 4:30 p.m. after the sheriff's office received a 911 call about a man overboard in the lake -- which is between 12 to 35 feet deep.

"It appears the two young men were extremely good friends and they decided to take a ride in a boat, a small, rubber inflatable raft," Sheriff Dale Gribler told WWJ's Beth Fisher. "Our central dispatch received a 911 call from residents that saw the individuals clinging to the side of the raft, and then saw them submerged."

Several police units and dive teams quickly responded to the scene, but found no signs of the boys and called off the search shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday. Teams returned to the scene the next morning and recovered the bodies less than 15 minutes later.

Gribler said the men were not wearing life preservers, and might have been caught off guard by the cool temperatures of the water.

"This particular time of the year, while the air temperature may be in the 80s the water is still quite cold, so drownings can occur quite quickly," he said.

Autopsy results are pending. Gribler said toxicology tests will be performed, but there's no indication that alcohol was a factor.

"It's a real heartbreaking story," said Gribler. "This is a tragic situation that really brings to light the need for water safety and the use of life jackets. Just please be careful on the water."

Chao was a student at Western Michigan University and Wong was a student at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo.


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