The bodies of two fishermen were recovered Tuesday morning, 10 days after they disappeared on Great Sacandaga Lake.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said kayakers found the bodies of Mark Richards, 51, and Brent Richards, 24, washed up on shore. One was found on the Broadalbin public beach, another at the North Broadalbin Beach Club.
“We’ve identified the bodies and notified family members,” he said. “We’ve put this case to rest.”
The Broadalbin father and son launched their 8- or 10-foot boat from MacVean Road near the state-run Broadalbin public access early on the morning of May 18.
When they did not return home a day later, a family member reported them missing.
The recovery of their bodies comes after a long and fruitless search. Dive teams, sonar boats and state police helicopters scanning the area gave up after four days on the lake.
When he called off the search, Lorey hypothesized that the fishermen might not even be in the lake.
“We’re thinking they might have just run away from home, if you will,” he told The Gazette last week.
Lorey said Tuesday his suspicions last week arose from faulty tips that Mark and Brent had contacted family and friends via Facebook after their supposed drowning.
At the time, he also suggested that if the father and son had drowned, their bodies would have surfaced within a few days. As it happened, their remains stayed submerged for nine to 10 days.
Sgt. Tom Barden, a state police diver who helped coordinate the search, said the Richardson case was actually pretty normal.
“If I had been asked to predict at the beginning of this thing,” he said, “I would have said they would float between eight and 10 days after going in.”
He said many factors such as water temperature, depth and body chemistry of the victim dictate when a drowning victim will float. Even the nature of their last meal may have played a role in keeping the two men below the water for so long.
Both bodies were found near where the Richardses originally launched, well within the search area.
Lorey could not say why the many hundreds of man hours spent plying the Sacandaga’s depths with divers and sonar did not turn anything up earlier. Barden said the bodies likely were not in the search area during the actual search.
He pointed out that the rainy and windy weather of Memorial Day weekend caused currents that could have washed both men eerily close to the starting point of their voyage.
Autopsies and blood-alcohol analyses will be conducted as part of the investigation, Lorey said.
Though the boat has not yet been found, he suspects it was too small for two men and their gear and capsized with little provocation.
Neither victim was wearing a life jacket when recovered. Though both were known to be experienced fishermen and strong swimmers, he said the temperature of the water likely sapped their strength before they could reach shore.