Couple survives boating catastrophe at reservoir

A Harvey County couple escaped injury early Sunday morning when the 18-foot Fiberglass boat in which they were riding at Marion Reservoir took on water and sank.

William Seidle, and Mary Cunningham, both of Walton, were taking the boat from a boat ramp to their campsite when they became lost, the boat motor stalled, and the boat began to fill with water.

The boat was just purchased the day before.

At 12:50 a.m., Cunningham called Marion County Communications but was using a cell phone that did not support wireless 911 tracking, so dispatch could not locate the couple.

Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker parked on the reservoir dam with flashing lights and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers launched a boat from Marion Cove, also with flashing lights to see if either lights were visible to the stranded boaters. Telephone contact continued with Cunningham in an effort to locate the marooned boaters.

While authorities were talking with Cunningham, she stopped the conversation to put on her life vest and shortly after that, contact was lost with her.

A LifeTeam helicopter landed at Hillsboro Cove where Marion County Sheriff Deputy Jim Philpott boarded with a thermal imaging camera to search for the boat and survivors.

A Kansas Highway Patrol fixed-wing aircraft flew from the Kansas City area to assist in the search.

After several hours of searching for the boat and victims in four-foot-high waves, Becker called off the search until 7 a.m.

A pickup truck and empty boat trailer were located at the overflow area at Marion Cove.

Near the vehicle was a tent with a six-year-old boy. In the truck, a man was sleeping who later was determined to be wanted on a Harvey County warrant.

The man in the truck informed authorities that the couple had launched the boat at dusk from Cottonwood Point and were going to beach the boat at the campsite but became lost.

An ambulance was dispatched to the scene because the six-year-old boy was a diabetic and had not been fed or checked for some time.

At 5:50 a.m., Gary Evans, 2413 Old Mill Road, called communications to report that two people had come to his house in need of transportation to their campsite after being involved in a boating incident at the reservoir.

The couple told authorities that before the boat sank, they were able to hang on to the boat and made their way to shallow water. The two waited until light to look for help.

Neither of the pair was injured and were happily reunited with the six-year-old child.

The man who was sleeping in the truck was arrested and transported to the Harvey County Jail.

Becker suggested that boaters keep a supply of glow sticks which could be used in a case similar to this incident to provide light to signal for help in the water and on shore.