Family member describes drowning during hunting trip

Posted at 9:26 PM, Nov 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-15 21:27:07-05

AMBER TOWNSHIP,  Mich. — A Grand Rapids man died after his family's canoe overturned during a hunting trip in Mason County.

Emergency crews were called around 7:35 a.m. Friday morning to the Pere Marquette River near the Scottville boat launch in Amber Township, east of Ludington.

Forty-eight-year-old Steve Borkowski died as a result of the accident. His brother, Marc Borkowski, and his father John Borkowski, survived.

Over the phone, Marc Borkowski described the accident and how he was able to help his father out of the water. The men were traveling on a 19-foot canoe to their hunting spot about a half mile or more from the boat launch.

The canoe hit a log in the water and then overturned.

"I went under the water," said Marc Borkowski, who was able to come up for air after swallowing river water.

After freeing himself from a branch, he found his father, who couldn't move, and "...threw him on the bank of the river."

At this time, his brother was 50 yards down the river. When Marc Borkowski finally made it to him, he says he found him 2 feet under a branch underneath the water. Marc Borkowski and his father tried to perform CPR, but says it was too late by then.

When emergency crews arrived, they found the the two men trying to help Steve Borkowski.

First responders continued CPR with the Scottville Fire Department and Scottville Police Department. He was later pronounced dead at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.

The sheriff's office reports they could not find any life jackets nearby, but Marc Borkowski told FOX17 they did have life jackets on the canoe. They were not wearing them at the time of the accident.

Marc Borkowski says he would go up to Mason County with his brother every year for firearm opener.

He said his brother was an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing and hunting, including deer and duck. They learned to love the outdoors from their father, who would take them to different areas to fish and hunt throughout their childhood.

For the last 20 years or so, they have been hunting in the same spot on the river. During that time, Marc Borkowski says they "never had a problem" and learned the area well.

He remembers his brother as "very funny, would do anything anyone and always generous."

Family plans to start making funeral arrangements over the weekend for Steve Borkowski. He leaves behind a son, a granddaughter and other relatives.