Labor Day kayaking trip for 3 on Lake Ontario turns deadly

SOMERSET, N.Y. — Conditions on Lake Ontario began to get rough around the time twin brothers Jacob and Nathaniel McCormick and their friend Joseph Williams launched their kayak for a Labor Day outing in western New York.

Less than 24 hours later, 21-year-old Nathaniel McCormick and 18-year-old Joseph Williams finally made it back to shore in choppy, chilly water, and Jacob McCormick's body was found about a half-mile off shore.

Jacob McCormick's death left relatives and his fellow members of a church near his central Pennsylvania hometown mourning for a man known for his love of family and his faith.

"Just an outstanding young man. The kind of young man anybody would be proud to call brother, son, friend," Pastor Ronald Anderson told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday from Calvary Baptist Church in Altoona.

Maj. Patrick Moriarty of the New York State Park Police released the men's names Wednesday. Anderson had early confirmed their identities.

The three men, all from Duncansville, Pennsylvania, launched their kayaks from a state park in Somerset in Niagara County. The McCormicks were visiting relatives living nearby, Anderson said.

Authorities said all three were wearing life jackets when they set out late Monday morning. Around 10 a.m., the National Weather Service in Buffalo issued a small-craft advisory for the lake, with winds of 20 to 30 mph (32 to 48 kilometers per hour) and waves up to 3 feet (1 meter) expected.

Moriarty said Williams' kayak capsized in the choppy conditions about an hour into the outing. He held on to Nathaniel's kayak in the 64-degree Fahrenheit (18-degree Celsius) water while Jacob paddled off to seek help.

"When he left them, they lost sight of him and never saw him again," Moriarty said.

The weather service said winds increased and waves of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) would have been encountered by rescue crews once a search was launched after 6 p.m., when relatives reported the men missing. Thunderstorms moved across the region Monday night into Tuesday morning, hampering the search effort.

Attorney John Gavenda and his wife were out their morning jog when they encountered Nathaniel McCormick and Williams around 5 a.m. Tuesday along the shoreline at Point Breeze in neighboring Orleans County, 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of where the men had launched their kayaks. The two exhausted men were taken to the couple's nearby home and called authorities.

Jacob McCormick's body was found about a half-mile from shore a few hours later, officials said. A cause of death hasn't been determined.

Lake Ontario, Gavenda said, "will eat you alive."

"You have to respect that lake," he told WIVB-TV in Buffalo.

Jacob is survived by his wife, Johanna, whom he met at a Christian summer camp outside Buffalo, Anderson said. The couple married in May 2016.

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