Drowning victim’s body found
FERRISBURGH — Vermont State Police and the U.S. Coast Guard recovered the body of a Ferrisburgh man from Lake Champlain on Tuesday afternoon, concluding a three-day search for the drowning victim.
Vermont State Police said at about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday Rene Viau, a 46-year-old married father of two and employee of Vermont Heating and Ventilation in Winooski, was riding in the bow of a 16-foot aluminum boat near Kellogg and Porter bays when he fell out and did not resurface.
According to VSP, detectives from the agency’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations reached a preliminary conclusion that wakes from two passing boats may have caused the boat carrying Viau and one companion to pitch, sending Viau overboard.
Police said Viau, a Middlebrook Road resident, was not wearing a life vest. A VSP press release stated alcohol was not a factor, and that the accident remains under investigation with the cooperation of all parties involved.
When the body did not resurface on Saturday, the VSP scuba team arrived on Sunday to search, but the daylong effort was unsuccessful. On Monday, VSP said poor weather and lake conditions forced the team to suspend the effort at 1 p.m. for the sake of the team members’ safety. Specifically, a wind shift blew silt from nearby Otter Creek into the area, reducing the visibility in Lake Champlain to zero.
On Tuesday, VSP returned to search by boat, and received a call that a body had been seen a half-mile offshore from Grosse Point, about 1.25 miles north of Otter Creek. VSP and the Coast Guard recovered the body and positively identified it as Viau at that point.
According to the Burlington Free Press, Viau’s friends and family members found him at about 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning. VSP did not disclose that information in a release, however, stating only that “a call was received.”
In an email at about 4 p.m., VSP Public Information Officer Stephanie Dasaro said officers at the scene had declined to divulge any further information on how Viau was found, “as the release of any additional details about the investigation could undermine our ability to thoroughly investigate this tragic incident.”
Viau’s body was then taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy, which Dasaro said is standard procedure in untimely deaths.
Assisting VSP and the Coast Guard were members of the Vergennes and Ferrisburgh fire departments and the Vergennes Police Department.