3-Year-Old Boy Survives Boating Accident That Killed His Beloved Environmentalist Grandparents
A Vermont couple has tragically died in the very creek they spent their lives conserving after a boat outing with their grandson took a devastating turn.
Martha "Marty" Illick and Terrence Dinnan were identified by Vermont State Police as the victims of Monday's boating accident, which ended with the vessel capsizing.
The couple's 3½-year-old grandson was also on the boat at the time of the incident but managed to safely make it to shore, their press release stated.
Authorities said the accident unfolded along Lewis Creek in Charlotte — the same city that Illick, 70, and Dinnan, 71, were from.
Around 12:30 p.m., police received a call from several fishermen who reported that there were two bodies in the creek, according to the release.
The Vermont State Police, Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services, and the Ferrisburgh Volunteer Fire Department all arrived at the scene, where they confirmed that the two adults in the water were dead, and a young boy was missing.
A search was immediately launched for the child, who was eventually found after more than an hour inside a vehicle at the nearby home of his grandparents, police said.
Investigators later determined that Illick and Dinnan had taken their grandson out on the small boat when it suddenly capsized and sent all three into the water, according to the release.
Thankfully, the boy was wearing a life vest, which officials said allowed him to make his way to shore before returning on his own to the vehicle outside the house. He was later reunited with his parents.
However, the grandparents were not wearing life vests and their bodies were recovered by crews "a short distance downstream of the capsized boat," according to police.
Illick and Dinnan's bodies have since been transported to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Burlington, where they are undergoing autopsies to determine their cause and manner of death.
At this time, it is unclear why the couple's boat capsized and how long they were in the water before the fishermen spotted their bodies.
The incident is currently under investigation, according to Vermont State Police.
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In the wake of the tragedy, loved ones have been paying tribute to the couple and their legacy.
Andrea Morgante, who met the pair in the late 1970s at the swimming holes along Lewis Creek, told CBS affiliate WCAX that Illick and Dinnan "spent their lives with the creek" and were well-known in the community as environmentalists.
"They really understood the magic of Lewis Creek," Morgante told the outlet. "It is a really magical place and they just enhanced the magic."
Morgante noted that she and Illick bonded over the idea of preserving Lewis Creek, which led them to eventually form the Lewis Creek Association. Illick ultimately became the executive director of the association, according to WCAX.
Fellow friend Steve Costello added to the outlet that Illick was passionate about the environment and wildlife, and enjoyed sharing her knowledge with others.
"Her legacy is one of great strength, but it's also one of caring and concern for her fellow Vermonters and our environment at large," said Costello.
According to Costello, Illick's decades-long volunteer work was recognized in 2017 when the Department of Conservation nominated her for Green Mountain Power's Zetterstrom Environmental Award.
Costello told WCAX that he was the one who got to present her with the prestigious honor.
"If she got a decision on a regulatory issue or something related to water quality that she disagreed with, she didn't just appeal it or complain about it," Costello noted to the outlet. "She would start researching to find new data that could overturn that decision."
Lewis Creek Association also expressed their sadness over the incident in a Facebook post, writing, "Our dear friend, most loving and inspiring leader has died tragically in an accident on Lewis Creek."
"She was a founding co-creator of Lewis Creek Association, and devoted to sharing her love of the creek, its beauty, the woods, flowers, animals and magic by bringing everyone to the table," the organization added. "This is just a beginning sentiment to express and share our love and sadness to all who knew Marty and her husband Terry Dinnan."