Boat Owner Recalls Waiting For Friend Who Died on Lake Michigan

white lake township body

Beach where body was found in White Lake Township

WHITEHALL, Mich. (May 13, 2014) — A Grand Rapids man who dedicated his life to helping people with their battles against substance abuse is gone after a boating trip on Lake Michigan.

52-year-old Cameran Stockwell’s body was found on Tuesday morning along the lakeshore, hours after the boat he was in was discovered drifting through the water.

James Gartner told FOX 17 that he had plans to meet up with Stockwell Monday afternoon after traveling in this boat from Whitehall to Pentwater, but Gartner said that Stockwell never showed up.

“I looked out on the pier a couple of times, just kind of looking for the boat, wondering why he wasn’t there. That’s when I started getting nervous,” said Gartner.

Gartner said that he’s only owned the boat for about a week,  and over the weekend Stockwell helped him make a few small repairs.

“He’s a well versed boater. He’s been sailing pretty much his whole life on and off the water. So, I had no problem letting him borrow the boat, you know to drive it up there,” said Gartner.

Stockwell’s friend and business partner, Marvin Smith, said that no matter the weather, Stockwell was always eager to get on the water.

“Cam (Cameron) is one of those guys that if the weather is bad, he’ll say ‘Oh that’s nothing, I can handle this,’ and he’d go, you know. It could be raining, lighting, snow could be flying. He wouldn’t care,” said Smith.

Someone walking along the lakeshore found Stockwell’s body Tuesday morning.

Gartner said that he identified Stockwell for law enforcement.Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 4.01.20 PM

“It was surreal. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Thanks to Sheriff Roesler who was there, who comforted me, which I really appreciate, you know because I was down there by myself,” said Gartner.

Gartner said that Stockwell helped save his life about five years ago, after encouraging Gartner to join Stockwell’s sober living home.

“He was talking about Recovery Road in Grand Rapids and I just knew that if I didn’t do something like that with my life at that point, that I probably wasn’t going to be existing much longer,” said Gartner.

Stockwell started Recovery Road about seven years ago in Kent County to help provide a stable living environment for people who suffer with substance abuse. The organization prides itself on offering resources like government identification cards, phones, safe place to sleep, and drug counseling.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that investigators were able to help locate Stockwell because he left a detailed travel plan to Gartner,  reminding boaters to always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to arrive.

Also, organizers with Recovery Road said that they are determined to continue the sober living program in Stockwell’s honor.

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