Fisherman who drowned Sunday had nearly drowned in 2012 river mishap.

August 16, 2016

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By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

GOLDEN TOWNSHIP — Brian Waslusky of Hart, one of the two fishermen who drowned in Lake Michigan Sunday night, had a near-death experience while fishing in the Pentwater River near the Hart Dam four years ago.

Waslusky’s life 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.

Schiller pulled him out of the water and saw that he wasn’t breathing and had no heartbeat, said Lt. Craig Mast of the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office. He attached the AED unit and shocked Waslusky three times before his heart started again.

Mast said Waslusky was steelhead fishing with a spawn sack when the sack got caught on some brush in the river. Waslusky tried to un-snag the bag, but lost his balance and fell into the river.

Waslusky had no pulse and was not conscious when Schiller arrived and was lying “face up” in the water, Mast said. Waslusky was flown by helicopter from Mercy Health Lakeshore Hospital in Shelby to Grand Rapids, ultimately recovering from the accident.

The incident is eerily similar to the fishing incident Sunday night.

Waslusky, 53, and Steve Bruce, 62, both drowned Sunday night, Aug. 14, in Lake Michigan while fishing near the Little Point Sable Lighthouse in Golden Township. Waslusky’s body was recovered near Pentwater Sunday night, and Bruce’s body has not yet been found. A third fishermen, Russell Pierce, survived. The threesome “had been fighting a big fish” when the incident occurred, according to Mast.

Waslusky was trying to net the fish but dropped the net, and then Bruce jumped in the lake after the fish and net. Waslusky jumped into the lake to assist. Neither was wearing a life vest.

The search for Bruce’s body was called off Monday night, and now authorities have begun the recovery process, which entails searching the shoreline.

The threesome was fishing on Bruce’s 23-foot Bayliner fishing boat approximately one mile from shore, Mast said. They were in water “well in excess of 100 feet deep,” he said.

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 could come in sooner, he said. His body was also checked for alcohol and drug use, and blood results are expected within a few weeks.

With recovery efforts for Bruce’s body underway, it’s possible his body may never surface based on the possible depth where he went in the water, Mast said. Underwater currents will also have an impact, he said.

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