Accident Database

Report ID# 56690

  • Swim into Strainer
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Man Dies After Canoe Tips Over on Pere Marquette River

November 15, 2019 

By Gabriella Galloway

CBS affiliate, WWTV/WWUP-TV 9&10, Caddilac, MI

Steven John Borkowski, a 48- year-old Grand Rapids man died Friday morning while canoeing and hunting with his father and brother in Mason County. They were going down the Pere Marquette River.

First responders arrived at Scottville Riverside Park to try and rescue Borkowski . The call that came into the scanner said, “Sounds like they might have a subject on the river without a life jacket.” “I have a water emergency. Riverside Park in Scottville.”

What started out as a father, son hunting trip turned tragic Friday morning. While a father and his adult sons were canoeing down the Pere Marquette River, just a half a mile west of Scottville Riverside Park, their canoe hit a log and overturned.

“When emergency crews arrived on the scene, they had found two victims suffering from hypothermia who were actually attempting CPR on a third individual,” said Sheriff Kim Cole with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. One of the sons, a 48- year- old man did not survive. “The other two are currently being treated at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital for hypothermia,” said Cole.

This is the seventh drowning in Mason County this year. “Clearly for us, it’s a tragic start to our firearm season,” said Cole. “Sometimes you just don’t have words.”

The sheriff reminds everyone to take safety precautions this hunting season, especially for those on the water. “Obviously life jackets always make a difference. Even a flotation cushion to sit on would make a difference,” said Cole. “This time of year it’s really problematic because the rivers so cold and the currents obviously with the high waters we’ve experienced all year long is problematic as well.”

The sheriff says the drownings this year have impacted the entire community. “Now were getting into the winter season and you know this morning when I was notified of this, the seventh drowning, you just wonder, when is it going to end?” asked Cole.

Family member describes drowning during hunting trip

BY ANGELINE MCCALL, Fox News 17, West Michigan

NOVEMBER 15, 2019

AMBER TOWNSHIP,  Mich. - A Grand Rapids man died after his family's canoe overturned during a hunting trip in Mason County. Emergency crews were called around 7:35 a.m. Friday morning to the Pere Marquette River near the Scottville boat launch in Amber Township, east of Ludington. 48-year-old Steve Borkowski died as a result of the accident. His brother, Marc Borkowski, and his father John Borkowski, survived.

Over the phone, Marc described the accident and how he was able to help his father out of the water. The men were traveling on a 19-foot canoe to their hunting spot about a half mile or more from the boat launch. The canoe hit a log in the water and then overturned. "I went under the water," said Marc, who was able to come up for air after swallowing river water. After freeing himself from a branch, he found his father, who couldn't move, and "...threw him on the bank of the river."

At this time, his brother was 50 yards down the river. When Marc finally made it to him, he says he found him 2 feet under a branch underneath the water. Marc and his father tried to perform CPR on Steve but says it was too late by then. When emergency crews arrived, they found the the two men trying to help Steve. First responders continued CPR with the Scottville Fire Department and Scottville Police Department. Steve was later pronounced dead at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.

The Sheriff's Office reports they could not find any life jackets nearby, but Marc tells FOX17 they did have life jackets on the canoe. They were not wearing them at the time of the accident.

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