Autopsies may provide clues about fishing accident.

August 18, 2016

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By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

GOLDEN TOWNSHIP — The body of fisherman Steve Bruce, 62, of Hart was transported to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids for an autopsy after it was recovered from Lake Michigan Wednesday evening, according to the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office, and autopsy results may shed more light on the fishing accident that claimed two lives.

Bruce and Brian Waslusky, 53, of Hart both drowned while fishing on Bruce’s 23-foot Bayliner fishing boat Sunday night approximately one mile from shore.

The Little Sable Point Lighthouse.

The Little Sable Point Lighthouse.

An autopsy was also performed on Waslusky’s body. Their bodies are being checked for alcohol and drug use, and blood results are expected within a few weeks.

Bruce’s body, which had been missing since Sunday night, was recovered Wednesday evening from Lake Michigan west of Little Point Sable approximately three-quarters of a mile offshore. Oceana County Sheriff’s Lt. Craig Mast said an underwater robot was used to retrieve the body from the water, and crews experienced difficulty due to 4-5 foot waves in Lake Michigan.

Waslusky’s body was recovered near Pentwater Sunday night, but Bruce’s body had been missing since the accident. A third fishermen, Russell Pierce, survived. The threesome “had been fighting a big fish” when the incident occurred, according to Pierce’s statement to police. They were in water “well in excess of 100 feet deep,” Mast said.

Pierce told police that Waslusky was trying to net the fish but dropped the net, and then Bruce jumped in the lake to retrieve the fish and net. Waslusky jumped into the lake to assist him.

Neither of the two drowning victims were wearing life vests.

The sheriff’s office is investigating whether alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident. The lone survivor, Pierce, tested negative on a preliminary breath test (PBT), Mast said, but there was “evidence of alcohol used on the vessel,” he said.

“A voluntary sample of the survivor’s blood is being checked for any other substances that may have played a role,” Mast said. Pierce’s blood samples are being sent to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Lansing, however results are expected to take months, he said.

Autopsy results for Waslusky and Bruce could come in sooner, he said.

Waslusky had a near-death experience while fishing in the Pentwater River near the Hart Dam four years ago. His┬álife was saved in March of 2012 by Oceana County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Schiller, who pulled the fisherman from the river and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to get his heart beating again.

Assisting the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office in the search and recovery of Bruce’s body were the Michigan State Police Dive Recovery Team, the Oceana County Sheriff’s Marine Division, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, the Ludington Police Department, the Pentwater Police Department, the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. The U.S. Coast Guard was also actively searching for Bruce’s body until Monday night when it called off the search.

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