PORTER CO. – A Gary man has been rescued after a lengthy multiagency search coordinated by Indiana Conservation Officers on Lake Michigan.
On Friday, August 13 at approximately 5 p.m., 24-year-old Jerimiah Merritt, of Gary, left the Portage Marina on a personal watercraft to go riding on Lake Michigan.
After Merritt failed to return home, the family located his vehicle parked at Portage Marina and called 911.
Indiana Conservation Officers and the Portage Police Department immediately responded and determined Merritt may be in danger and requested additional assistance in the search. The Portage Police Department initially began searching the lakefront near Portage Lakefront Park utilizing an unmanned aerial vehicle.
The Portage Fire Department’s Marine 1, United States Coast Guard (USCG), Lake County Sheriff’s Department Aviation and Marine Units, Ogden Dunes Police, and Indiana Dunes National Park Rangers responded and expanded the search by utilizing off-road vehicles, emergency watercraft, UAVs, and helicopters.
That following morning at approximately 1:45 a.m. Saturday, a USCG Helicopter spotted Merritt adrift on his watercraft approximately 5 miles offshore from Portage Lakefront Park. A USCG vessel made contact with and brought Merritt back to safety.
Merritt reported he began to have mechanical issues with his watercraft at 8 p.m. and was unable to return to shore. He did not have a cell phone or any other means of communication to call for help.
Indiana Conservation Officers strongly encourage recreational watercraft users to carry a variety of safety equipment, including communication devices, with them while boating. It is also important to always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return when going on the water. For more on boating safety, please visit our website at the following link: https://www.in.gov/dnr/law-enforcement/education/boating-education-and-safety/
In addition to the agencies that assisted on the scene, the Porter County Central Communications 911 Center, Lake County Communications 911 Center, and Indiana Conservation Officers Central Dispatch Center played vital roles in the rescue effort.