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Body of missing kayaker found in Lake Huron

The Huron County Sheriff's Department says the body of 22-year-old Curtis Herbon has been found in Lake Huron.

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ABC12 News Team
HURON COUNTY, MI — The Huron County Sheriff's Department says the body of 22-year-old Curtis Herbon has been found in Lake Huron.

His body was found a little before 7 a.m. Tuesday in less than 5 feet of water, about an eighth of a mile offshore, south of Lighthouse County Park.

The sheriff's office has been searching for Herbon since he went missing while kayaking over the weekend.

He was with 20-year-old Robert Lapensee around 4:15 p.m. Saturday when the two apparently swapped their separate kayaks, causing them to both fall in the lake.

Lapensee was able to swim to shore.

Neither were wearing life jackets.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.


(07/17/17) - The search for a missing kayaker has turned from a rescue to a recovery mission.

The Huron County Sheriff's Office said 22-year-old Curtis Herbon of St. Clair Shores and his friend, 20-year-old Robert Lapensee, left a cottage south of Lighthouse Park Saturday afternoon headed for Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse.

They made the roughly 2.5 mile journey via kayak, but their kayaks got swamped on the way back.

Herbon went under water and never resurfaced.

Lapensee was able to swim back to shore where he flagged someone down to call for help.

Neither had on a lifejacket.

"I spent, like I say, some time with parents that are going to be grieving for a long time," said Kelly Hanson, sheriff of Huron County. "I know that the family wishes that the victim would have had a lifejacket, because we probably wouldn't be having this conversation and you know, everybody's going to be thinking, 'what if, what if, what if'. This happened within a matter of minutes from good went to very bad."

The sheriff's office and others began a search for Herbon around 6 p.m. Saturday. It ended around dusk.

Sunday morning they returned, but after about 10 hours high winds and waves forced them to suspend the search early.

"White caps were breaking over the break wall. I mean that's big time," said Jerry Hensley who has camped at the Lighthouse Park campground for more than 30 years.

Monday morning they returned at 8:30 a.m. but they weren't able to use all their equipment.

While weather conditions had improved, it wasn't enough to send divers into the water or use the Side Scan SONAR equipment to pinpoint areas of interest.

Instead the sheriff's office used rescue boats to search from the surface, and deployed a drone to look along the shore and in the water.

Zero visibility in this area of Lake Huron and a rocky bottom have also impacted search efforts.

They expect conditions to be better Tuesday, allowing them to utilize divers and SONAR again.

This isn't the first time the sheriff's office has been involved in this kind of search.

Last year, around the Fourth of July, a father drown while kayaking with his family near Turnip Rock, a popular tourist destination.

He was not wearing a lifejacket.

Rescues calls for help on Lake Huron have increased in recent years as kayaking has become more popular.

"People come right up our main arteries with tunnel vision and they're putting that thing in the water regardless," Hanson said.

Add inexperience and a lack of safety equipment to the mix, and Hanson said you can get into a lot of danger, quickly.

He said many people also don't know their own limits.

While the wind may be favorable in one direction, it may not be as easy to paddle on the way back.

Hanson said one day this summer they had to get 17 people to shore.

On the day Herbon went underwater, two other people needed help farther north near Turnip Rock.

The sheriff asked the U.S. Coast Guard to help those people, as his office's resources were tied up looking for Herbon.

Good samaritans were able to get those people safely to shore before the Coast Guard arrived.

Hensley said he's watched the entire search unfold and just hopes others will learn from the tragedy.

"Like you say, you've got to have respect. Just know when to say when," said Hensley.

Hensley said many treat the Great Lake like they would any other inland lake, but fail to take into account the lake's size and the changing weather conditions.

He likes to fish in Lake Huron, but won't go out until he checks the weather forecast.

Hanson said being aware of weather conditions is important and so is wearing a lifejacket.

"There's too much being taken for granted with this fad of kayaking," Hanson said. "We're frustrated that we can't get through to everyone."

Now that this mission has turned from a rescue to a recovery, it's only the sheriff's office out there. Other agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard are done unless the sheriff's office asks for additional help.


(07/16/17) - Rough waters caused by strong winds force searchers out of Lake Huron as they look for a missing kayaker.

The Huron County Sheriff's Office said they had to come out of the water just before 4 p.m. Sunday after resuming their search at 6 a.m.

They have been looking for a 22-year-old Detroit-area man since about 6 p.m. Saturday.

He was in Lake Huron off-shore from Lighthouse Road in Huron Township when he went under.

He had been kayaking with a 20-year-old friend when both of their kayaks became "swamped" sending them into the water before 4 p.m. Saturday.

Neither was wearing a lifejacket.

The missing man couldn't swim.

His friend was able to make it to shore and flag someone down for help.

The Huron County sheriff said the area is extremely rocky and visibility is zero.

The lake is about 10 feet deep in the area.

Several agencies have helped search including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Natural Resources, the Sanilac County Sheriff's Office, the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office and the Bad Axe Fire Department.

They'll be back Monday morning, weather permitting.

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