SANDUSKY — A 47-year-old Mansfield man has been charged with charges related to a fatal boating accident on Lake Erie.
Matt Mooney faces two counts of reckless homicide, a third degree felony and a misdemeanor count of operating a vessel in a dangerous manner.
According to the indictment, Mooney “recklessly caused the deaths” of Wayde Lafferty, 55, of Vermilion, and James Muncy, 54, of Wakeman.
The Nov. 16 accident involving two boats occurred west of Cranberry Creek Marina in open water near Huron.
Mooney was arrested on March 31. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $40,000 bond.
The case is set for a preliminary hearing on April 27.
Erie County District Attorney Kevin Baxter did not return a message from the News Journal seeking comment.
Mooney and his friends were participating in a fishing contest
Mooney and four other local anglers were participating in the Walleye Fall Brawl, a fishing tournament on Lake Erie, the night of the accident.
All five gave an interview to a News Journal reporter a few days after the incident.
Phil May, John Allen and Bob Blanton were in one boat, while Mooney and Matt Baker were in the other.
Another boat collided with Mooney and Baker. Lafferty died at the scene despite the efforts of the local contingent to save him.
Muncy’s body has not been found.
Mansfield’s friends worked together to ensure there were no more casualties.
The five men are passionate fishermen. May, Allen and Blanton weren’t very lucky.
The trio were fishing in just 7 feet of water. May communicated with Mooney in the other boat. He and Baker were doing much better in deeper water.
“We started our journey where we thought these guys were,” May said.
This later proved crucial in helping those involved in the accident. May was able to arrive in time. The men agreed there would have been no time if they had stayed in their original location.
As May piloted his boat closer, he received a call from Mooney.
“He said they got hit. They were falling,” May said.
Mooney screams for help after boat hits
Mooney screamed for help.
“I just left for that sound,” May said. “Bob came to the front of the boat. I wanted an extra pair of eyes. I didn’t want to run over anyone in the water.”
May and company stumbled upon Mooney’s boat. The other boat had already sunk.
By then Mooney had returned to his boat from the other boat. He was standing in about 2 feet of water when his ship sank. Blanton got him to safety.
As Mooney returned to his boat to await rescue, Baker was in trouble. He was in the water.
“I jumped around the same time he did,” Baker said of Mooney. “I missed the back of his boat.”
Even though Baker was wearing a life jacket, he was struggling. He said he was ready to die.
“I couldn’t catch my breath,” Baker said. “I had decided that I was done.”
His friends had other ideas.
Allen attempted to reach Baker with a net but was unsuccessful. Blanton took a chance and managed to get Baker back to the boat.
May said he didn’t think Baker could have lasted much longer in cold water.
“It was colder than a stepmother’s kiss,” May said.
After rescuing the two men who were closer to the boat, the friends attempted to find the other two men.
“I heard a noise. That was it,” Blanton said.
Friends of Mansfield attempted to rescue the man from another boat
The crew reached Lafferty from the other boat, but the situation looked dire.
“Once we got to him, he was face down in the water,” Allen said. “This muscleman (Blanton) pulled him over the back of the boat.”
Blanton then called his daughter, who is a nurse, and put her on speakerphone as he attempted CPR on Lafferty.
He performed CPR – 20 chest compressions followed by two breaths – for the next 30 minutes.
“To be honest, I thought we had it back,” Blanton said. “He started to breathe. He opened his eyes.
“Then he left.”
Lafferty is dead.
“I don’t know what else we could have done,” Blanton said.
Although he may be in shock, Mooney helped with the chest compressions.
“I don’t know how you did it,” Blanton said.
As for Muncy, the fishermen of Mansfield have never seen him. Authorities searched for him overnight before calling off the search late the next morning.
Mooney gave his story in a November interview
Mooney gave the News Journal his account of the incident.
Mooney disputed some media reports that said there were no lights on his boat. He said he had been captain of that same boat for 20 years and it was well lit that night.
The other men corroborated his account.
“I can see this boat falling on top of us,” he said days after the crash. “We could have had 10 to 15 seconds.”
Mooney said he didn’t have enough time to move his boat, which he said was only going 1.5mph, away from the course of the other vessel, which he said was rolling at 20 mph.
Baker was ready to jump out of their boat, but Mooney yelled at him to stay put.
Contrary to previous reports, Mooney said none of the four people involved in the accident were thrown into the water.
“Their boat is above us,” Mooney said. “I immediately called Phil. We’re taking some water.”
Mooney and Baker put on their life jackets and got on the other boat. Mooney told other boaters to put on their life jackets. He said they didn’t appear to be hurt.
“They were bonded and determined to get their boat off our boat,” Mooney said. “I don’t understand. They never put on their life jackets.”
Mooney said the whole incident happened within minutes.
“It was madness,” he said.
He laments not being able to save the other two men.
“They didn’t put them on (life jackets). They would have survived,” Mooney said.