When waves and high winds capsized his fishing boat on Baldwin Lake on Wednesday, Lonnie Smith stayed in the water to try to flip it back over.
He sent the other two occupants of the boat, one of whom was his son, to shore.
But Smith, 48 of East St. Louis, got his legs tangled up in his fishing gear, said St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. As the boat filled with water, Smith was dragged down, even though he was wearing a life jacket.
He was pronounced dead at 12:50 p.m., Dye said.
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Waves can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall when there are heavy winds on a wide-open lake, said Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Eric Manker.
“Nobody should have been out here in a boat,” he said.
Manker said the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call from employees at Dynegy Midwest Generation Inc. who saw the capsized boat. The sheriff’s department then called Conservation Police.
When crews arrived, Smith’s son and the other man in the boat had already made it to shore. A crew from New Athens Water Rescue took a rescue boat out and found Smith’s body in the water. His boat had sunk to the bottom of the lake, Mankers said. After waters calm, crews will use sonar equipment to locate it.
Smithton, St. Libory and Freeburg fire departments assisted the agency on the call, along with ambulance personnel.
Manker said his entire Conservation Police crew was at the nearby World Shooting & Recreation Complex in Sparta for equipment inspections when they received the call from the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department. Police were then able to respond with their equipment to the lake.