EAST CHICAGO — A retired Hammond firefighter and former battalion chief with the Lake County Marine Unit was among the two people who died early Saturday in an East Chicago marina boating accident.
The death of Richard Wade, 68, of Hammond, came as a shock Saturday to Lake County Sheriff John Buncich. Buncich noted Wade's decades of experience on the water.
"I knew Wade very well. He was one of the original members of the marine unit. Very well-schooled in boating. That's why it came as a very terrible shock," Buncich said Saturday.
Wade and Timothy Dunlap, 62, of Lynwood, Illinois, were pronounced dead on scene early Saturday. A third person was injured in the crash. Police say a powerboat crashed into a break wall in Lake Michigan near the East Chicago Marina and ArcelorMittal. Lake County coroner's officials were called to the scene at 6:10 a.m.
Reduced visibility, speed and alcohol are believed to be contributing factors in the crash, according to a statement from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Hammond Fire Chief Jeffrey Smith said he worked only a short time with Wade, who retired from the department in the early 1990s. Smith said he knew Wade more through State Auto Body, a body shop in Hammond that Wade owned.
"I talked to Rich maybe Monday or Tuesday. We were getting some body work done on one of our ambulances," Smith said.
Smith said Wade was an avid boatman, and owned a boat at the East Chicago marina. He was known to spend his summer evenings at the marina, he said.
"He will be missed," Smith said. "He was an all-around good guy. I never had a person said anything bad about him."
A DNR officer said the boat involved was a 42-foot Fountain powerboat. Officers were using a remotely operated vehicle Saturday to search the site for other possible victims.
Indiana conservation officers were assisted by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department Marine Unit, U.S. Coast Guard, East Chicago Police and Fire Departments, the Hobart Fire Department, Portage Fire Department, Crown Point Fire Department and Porter Volunteer Fire Department.