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Search continues for 3rd boater after Cal-Sag collision

Illinois Conservatipolice officers William Miller (left) Ben Schultz search Calumet-Saganashkee Channel near Village Worth BoLaunch Sunday afternoon. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Illinois Conservation police officers William Miller (left) and Ben Schultz search the Calumet-Saganashkee Channel near the Village of Worth Boat Launch Sunday afternoon. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

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Updated: July 24, 2014 6:23AM



Two people were killed and authorities continued to search Sunday for a third person who has been missing since late Friday, when a pleasure boat collided with a commercial vessel on the Calumet-Saganashkee Channel near southwest suburban Palos Heights.

The cause of the collision remained under investigation. The 19-foot boat capsized and had significant damage, Chris Young, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said Sunday.

The bodies of Jeremy Muzika, 33, and Viengsavnh Bielarz, 40, were recovered from the water Saturday afternoon, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office and the U.S. Coast Guard. Neither was wearing a life jacket, according to the Coast Guard.

They died of drowning and multiple injuries after the boat collided with a 66-foot barge, an autopsy found Sunday. The deaths were ruled accidents.

The Coast Guard indicated there was little hope of finding the third boater alive. That person’s name has not been released.

“The decision to shift from search-and-rescue to recovery is one of the most difficult decisions imaginable,” said Capt. Amy Cocanour, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of everyone involved.”

Teams from the Coast Guard, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other authorities began a search about 11 p.m. Friday after the boat and the barge collided on the Cal-Sag near mile marker 311.

Authorities used sonar to search for victims on Saturday. But on Sunday, search efforts were hampered after powerful Saturday storms stirred up the channel, preventing two Illinois Conservation Police search teams from using sonar.

Contributing: Megan Graham

Email: bslodysko@suntimes.com

Twitter: @BrianSlodysko



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