GARDEN, Mich. (WJMN) – The body of Edward Carl Lester, 64, of Garden was recovered Thursday afternoon from the waters of Lake Michigan in what Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers said was an accidental drowning.

Lester’s wife contacted a neighbor to help look for her husband when he did not return from his routine fishing trip at his normal time, around 10 a.m.

Using binoculars to scan the water, the neighbor could see an object floating near Kates Bay on Big Bay De Noc, offshore of Garden. The neighbor called 911 dispatchers at 1:46 p.m.

First responders arrived and could see a body floating in the water near what appeared to be a pressure crack that formed in the ice, exposing about 10- to 15-feet of water.

Using their department-issued equipment to safely get onto the ice, Conservation Officer Chris Lynch and Brett Bednarski, a local firefighter who also works as a DNR fire officer, were able to reach Lester’s body, which was located at arm’s length in the water.

EMS, in consultation with the county medical examiner, pronounced Lester dead at the scene.

Officers said Lester had been operating his off-road vehicle either to or from his ice shanty, which was located on the far side of the ice floe that had been separated by the pressure crack. It appeared he had navigated his ORV into the open water, where his ORV sank 10- to 15-feet.

“Despite the ice in the area of the incident measuring approximately 4- to 5-inches thick, recent high winds caused the crack to open,” said Lt. Eugene “Skip” Hagy, DNR law supervisor for the eastern Upper Peninsula. “Anyone venturing onto any ice is reminded to use extreme caution – ice is never 100 percent safe. Pressure cracks are very hazardous and can occur very fast, particularly on large bodies of water.”

In addition to DNR Conservation Officer Corporal Mike Hammill, assisting agencies included the Garden Volunteer Fire Department, Tri Star EMS, Michigan State Police, Delta County Search and Rescue and the Delta County Sheriff’s Office. 

Hagy urges anyone venturing onto the ice to be cautious of how much weight they put on an ORV, snowmobile or sled, carry ice picks that are within reach at all times and to consider wearing a snowmobile suit with built in floatation aids.

Learn more about ice safety at

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens through general law enforcement and conducting lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more at