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‘Heartbreaking’ — Family calls off search for missing boaters

Posted at 4:08 PM, Oct 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-11 16:08:22-04

PORT SHELDON, Mich. — The family of two boaters who went missing on Lake Michigan more than two weeks ago have decided to end their search.

The decision was made due to the weather forecast and wave conditions on the lake, rendering sonar searches ineffective, relatives confirmed to FOX 17.

Chris Thode, 25, and Aaron Juarez, 40, of Wyoming, were last heard from on Sept. 25 when they left for a fishing trip.  It is believed that they launched from Port Sheldon, Michigan, into Pigeon Lake, which connects to Lake Michigan.

“To find nothing is so heartbreaking,” Renee Palermo, Juarez’s sister, told FOX 17. “It was keeping us going trying to bring them home, keeping us busy like we were working toward something.”

Last week relatives of the two men teamed up with a non-profit company, Bruce’s Legacy based out of Wisconsin, to perform sonar searches out in the area where it’s believed they were last seen.

The two left aboard a 16-foot white and blue boat with two dogs.

Earlier in the week, crews had found an object at the bottom of the lake resembling what could’ve been the boat belonging to the two men.  But the object was later determined to be a formation of rocks.

Family also received a tip from a woman claiming to have spotted a dog in the water similar in description to one of the dogs that’d been on board the boat. Palmero told FOX 17 family members searched roughly seven miles of the shoreline near where the dog was said to have been spotted, but found nothing.

“There’s no boat, nothing; no peace,” she said. “Two dogs, two people and all the stuff in the boat, I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that there’s nothing.”

Palermo, in describing the ‘incredible’ efforts of volunteers and the community who aided in the search effort, said they gave her brother a ‘presidential search’ he would be proud of, adding she and their family are ready to find closure in accepting the lake will be their final resting place.

Relatives set up a GoFundMe page, raising roughly $3,000 to cover the travel and fuel expenses incurred by the volunteer searchers. Palermo said the family plans to use the remaining funds to hold a memorial to celebrate the men’s lives and legacies with family, friends and the community.