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W-File: tr981211.htm

Type: Lake Michigan Triangle
Date: December 11, 1998
Location: Port Washington, Wisconsin


They finally found the Linda E.
Here's the story:

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 19, 2000

Navy says it has found the Linda E.

Last Updated: June 19, 2000

The wreckage of the missing fishing tug Linda E., which vanished about 1 1/2 years ago while traveling from the Milwaukee harbor to Port Washington, was found Sunday evening, officials said.

A Navy minesweeper found the wreckage about 7 p.m. in Lake Michigan offshore from Port Washington, said Scott McIlnay, a spokesman for a Great Lakes tour that included the minesweeper.

Craig Svoboda, stepson of Leif Weborg, one of three fishermen missing since the tragedy, said in a telephone interview Sunday night: "Our feelings are pretty mixed. I'm glad it's over, but now you have to deal with the tragedy. Everything is very sketchy from the family's perspective right now."

Searchers confirmed the fishing tug's identity using a mini submarine equipped with lights and cameras, McIlnay said. "If they get a return (signal) that's the right dimension, right size, it becomes of interest, and they sent down a mini submarine to take a look and they identified it as the Linda E.," McIlnay added.

Linda E. owner Leif Weborg, 61, Scott Matta, 32, and Warren G. Olson, 44, all of Milwaukee, are presumed to have been on board Dec. 11, 1998, when the ship sank.

No distress call was received, and the Coast Guard's initial search found no signs of the boat or its debris.

The Defender was taking part in the Great Lakes Cruise, a Navy recruiting trip under way on Lake Michigan. The minesweeper was built in Marinette and had the proper gear to search effectively, McIlnay said. The ships are equipped with sonar and other devices for detecting mines, and the same equipment can be used to look for a sunken vessel.

McIlnay said he learned of Sunday's discovery from the Navy after word spread through the chain of command.

A news conference was set for 1:30 p.m. today at the U.S. Coast Guard Station, 2420 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive, to disclose details of what was found, Chris Tuttle, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.), said in a telephone interview late Sunday night from Washington, D.C.

Tuttle declined to provide more detail.

Earlier in the day, relatives of the three missing fishermen watched as the Defender searched.

The case has been a "deep, extraordinary mystery," said Green, since the ship sank with "no logical explanation."

Green, of Green Bay, had requested that the Navy search for the missing fishing tug and its crew after Olson's family members learned that two minesweepers, the Defender and the USS Kingfisher, were passing through the Great Lakes on the recruiting and promotional tour.

While Green was among those witnessing the latest search efforts, he could not be reached for comment early today.

However, Sandy Saunier of Marinette, the aunt of one of the missing men, Warren Olson. was aboard Coast Guard Small Boat 41433 Sunday. The craft, a 41-foot-long Coast Guard patrol boat, was used to carry family members and others who were allowed to observe the Defender's search.

"We need the closure to find out what actually happened," she said. "These were all experienced men who had been on the water for many years, and it's just strange that nothing showed up."

Olson's sister, Joyce Rutta of Menominee, Mich., and sons Warren III and Wayne, both of Milwaukee, were among family viewing the 224-foot Defender as it scanned the 230-foot deep lake bottom.

Rutta said some relatives, including Olson's other two children, did not come because they thought it would be too emotional.

"They need to know what happened to their dad," Rutta said. "We haven't had a funeral service or anything yet. We can't bring ourselves to do that until we have the answers we need."

Patrick Milhizer and Mark Ward, in Milwaukee, and Lucas Wall, aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Small Boat 41433 in Lake Michigan, all of the Journal Sentinel staff, contributed to this report.

Here's the original collection of stories I found about the mysterious December 11, 1998 disappearance of the Linda E. I presented them in the order that they originally appeared (most in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). This way, you can see how strange the disappearance was and how extensive the search was before they finally found it.
- Jim

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 14, 1998

Rescue workers puzzled over missing fishing boat

Search called off without trace of vessel, 3 men

By Joe Williams
and Meg Jones
December 14, 1998
How in the world could a 42-foot commercial fishing boat disappear without a trace just a few miles from its destination on an unseasonably calm and mild December day?

As the 2 1/2-day search for a Milwaukee vessel called the Linda E was called off Sunday night, U.S. Coast Guard officials found themselves asking just that question.

The Linda E set out from Milwaukee for Port Washington early Friday morning and radioed ahead to Port Washington about 9:45 a.m. But the boat never arrived and never sent out a distress call. No sign of the boat, its crew or the 1,000 pounds of fresh chub it was carrying to Smith Brothers Food Service has been found.

"This is one of those 'X-Files' kinds of cases," said Amy Gaskill, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard in Cleveland. "It's mind-boggling."

The missing fishermen are Leif Weborg, the 55-year-old captain of the Linda E; a longtime crewman, Warren Olson, 45; and Weborg's son-in-law, Scott Matta, 32. All lived on the near south side of Milwaukee.

At the time the Linda E was last heard from, it was about six miles from shore and about nine miles southeast of Port Washington. The Coast Guard focused its search in that area.

"This is an odd case," Gaskill said. "Usually, there is debris or something floating on the water to give us an indication that the ship went down, or we hear from the people we are looking for."

The search was suspended indefinitely at 7 p.m. Sunday although Coast Guard officials in Milwaukee said they would continue to investigate.

Family members who gathered at the Weborg home Sunday said they hadn't heard a word. "We're still waiting and hoping," said a woman who answered the telephone.

Crews searched on water and by air as soon as day broke Sunday, and a Coast Guard cutter searched all night Saturday using radar equipment.

"We haven't found anything at all but we're still looking," Gaskill said Sunday afternoon before the search was suspended.

The search, the largest conducted this year by the Coast Guard's 9th District, included 41-foot rescue boats from Milwaukee and Sheboygan joined by two rescue helicopters from Traverse City, Mich.; a jet from Cape Cod, Mass.; a long-range cargo plane from the U.S. Air Force 440th Reserve unit; and the Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay. Searchers combed an area five times the size of Rhode Island, the Coast Guard said. In all, 3,000 square miles of Lake Michigan were searched for any sign of the fishing boat. The search included about 100 people coming from the Coast Guard, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Air Force and Canadian air force officials as well as commercial fishermen worried about the crew.

It should have been easy for search teams to find the boat or debris because only a few commercial boats still are plying Lake Michigan at this time of year, said Jerry Guyer, who operates a charter boat service for scuba divers in Milwaukee.

Guyer was out on the lake for a scuba diving charter Saturday when he heard about the missing boat. He headed north to help in the search.

"I talked to several other fishermen and I was up there all day Saturday searching myself -- no idea. I can't imagine what catastrophic thing could have happened so fast that they couldn't get out a message," said Guyer, who owns Pirate's Cove dive shop in Milwaukee. "And no debris, no tattle-tale evidence that could suggest what happened."

He added that it was very unusual that no debris was spotted, because most shipwrecks leave behind things that float to the surface.

"It's almost always that ultimately something shows up. But, of course, everything moves in the water so when found it's not too much of an indication of where it originated," Guyer said.

He noted that winds on Friday were from the east at 10 to 15 knots, or roughly 11 to 17 mph, but that on Sunday the winds had shifted and were from the north gusting up to 18 knots, or roughly 21 mph.

As the search was called off, it began to look like the crew of the Linda E was destined to join thousands of others who have disappeared on the Great Lakes.

"There's a history that many people would be amazed by," said Tom Farnquist, of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in Whitefish Point, Mich.

Roughly 6,000 commercial ships are known to have sunk in the Great Lakes since 1679, from tiny fishing schooners to mighty freighters, such as the Edmund Fitzgerald, which became immortalized in the folk song by Gordon Lightfoot.

For years, stories about the Great Lakes' equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle -- where ships have disappeared without a trace -- have been floating around, unable to land much credibility.

None of the disappearances are recent, however, and Gaskill said the circumstances surrounding the Linda E are highly unusual.

Farnquist said many of the local shipwrecks happened because vessels years ago didn't have the kind of technology they have today to help them through fog and other weather conditions.

Weather, however, does not appear to have been a factor in the disappearance of the Linda E. Coast Guard officials said the lake conditions were relatively calm at the time the boat disappeared on Friday.

And the Linda E was equipped with a radio, cellular phone and other standard modern equipment. It also appears to have had survival suits on board that would have allowed the men to stay afloat for as long as 36 hours.

In addition, Weborg was an experienced boater, having fished the same area for more than 20 years.

"It's a mystery," Guyer said. "I hope there's some sort of resolution soon for the families."

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tuesday December 15, 1998

Full nets of missing boat are retrieved

Fishermen's group wants enhanced sonar brought in

By Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel staff

Family and friends of the three commercial fishermen who disappeared while heading to Port Washington grimly brought back the missing vessel's catch Monday, as Coast Guard officials expressed sadness and regret at not being able to find the men.

"We wanted nothing better than to be tugging that boat in for them," said Cmdr. Ed Gleason of the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Milwaukee.

Knute Olson and his younger brother, Micheal, set off early Monday in search of their older brother, Warren, 45, who was aboard the Linda E Friday with owner Leif Weborg, 61, and Weborg's son-in-law, Scott Matta, 32.

The boat last was heard from about 9:30 a.m. Friday, when Weborg made a cellular phone call from the boat to Smith Brothers Food Service to say that they had caught 1,000 pounds of chub and would be in soon.

They never arrived.

Coast Guard personnel, with the help of crews from Cape Cod, the Department of Natural Resources and the Canadian Coast Guard, searched the waters of Lake Michigan on five vessels, three helicopters and two airplanes throughout the weekend before abandoni ng the search at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, the Coast Guard checked each of the hundreds of ports up and down the coast of Lake Michigan to make sure that the men had not docked there.

No one had seen them.

Although the search officially has been suspended, the investigation will be pursued by the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office. The next step will be to interview fishermen from other boats that were in the area at the time.

However, a group of fishermen is urging the Coast Guard system to help in the search, said Scott Stengert, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Commercial Fisheries Association. Weborg was a charter member of the group.

The organization is working with Gov. Tommy G. Thompson's office and state Rep. Tim Hoven (R-Port Washington) to persuade the Coast Guard to use the equipment to find the Linda E, Stengert said.

"I guess the Navy actually owns it, so there is some politics involved," he said. "We desperately want to find out what happened. We are hoping because this is considered a federal maritime disaster the equipment will be sent."

After spending a day on the lake in the unsuccessful search for any clues, Knute Olson returned to shore at about 3 p.m. Monday. He said he no longer held out any hope the men would be found alive.

"Not after three days," he said. "If they are, it's a miracle. When you're that far out from shore and you disappear without a trace, it just doesn't make sense."

Like the dozens of people involved in the search for the Linda E, Knute Olson said he had no idea what happened to the boat.

"Something had to have hit them really quick or something inside had to break to make them go down so fast," he said, explaining that the men apparently did not have time to employ any of the emergency safety equipment on board.

The boat was equipped with a cell phone, a two-way radio, flares and a safety ring that could have supported the three men, he said.

Jim Dura, a commercial fisherman from Marinette and a long time friend of Weborg's, came to Milwaukee on Monday to join the search. He's guessing that the men were run over by a barge.

"Either that or a UFO got 'em," he said as he pulled the missing men's nets from buckets to air out.

Like many commercial fishermen, the missing men had set their 18 nets and secured them to positions in Lake Michigan with buoys for retrieving later.

Tom Anderson was on one of the two boats that pulled the nets from the lake on Monday.

"Yeah, it was a sad job all right," he said. "But you've got to go on. I do it for them 'cause they woulda done it for me."

The chub were sold at market on Monday. So far, the nets are the only trace of the men and their Friday fishing mission.

Weborg was a well-known, well-established commercial fisherman who had gone out roughly 300 times a year for the past 40 years. Warren Olson had been on his crew for 20 years, Matta for the past 10 years.

"These were very predictable, resourceful guys who knew what they were doing," said Gleason. "This certainly is a head-scratcher."

If the men were hit by another boat, a barge most likely, there would be plenty of debris, Gleason said. The Linda E was 42 feet long and ran on diesel fuel. Weekend weather conditions were ideal, with low winds and plenty of sunshine.

Greg Sly, petty officer, first class, took the first call on the missing men about 8 p.m. Friday from Dan Anderson, a family friend.

At first, Coast Guard officers suspected the men had lost power. But when Friday night's search proved fruitless, the focus shifted to a possible accident.

"You would think we would find some debris, a floating tire, something," Gleason said.

Mysterious shipwrecks are not uncommon in Lake Michigan.

"Over the years, this lake has claimed thousands of vessels," Gleason said.

But what is perplexing is that no evidence would be found yet with all the technology available today, such as cell phones, radar and other sophisticated search equipment, he said.

"This is highly unusual, to say the least," he said.

The incident also is a mystery to Jack Eckert, a retired Coast Guard lieutenant commander who lives in Port Washington. Eckert spent several years of his career on the Great Lakes.

"Usually, you will have at least an oil slick when a boat sinks," he said. "It seems strange that it went down so fast."

Eckert said the only explanation he could think of is the Linda E hit some floating debris, which tore a hole in the hull. The hole might have been so large that the boat sank before the three men on board had a chance to to do anything, he said.

Monday's vigil was hauntingly familiar to the Olson family. Warren Olson is a fourth-generation fisherman in his family and the third to apparently be lost at sea.

His grandfather, Arthur Olson, drowned in 1945 while fishing in Duluth Harbor. A few years earlier, Arthur's 11-year-old son, Darryl, drowned while fishing with his father in the bay of Green Bay.

"There are nine of us children, and we always were proud of the fact that we were all still up and walking around," said Warren Olson's sister, Joyce Rutta of Menominee.

"For the life of me, I don't know how, on a bright, beautiful sunny day, you could drop off the face of the Earth," she said.

Jeff Cole, reporting from Port Washington, and Jesse Garza, reporting from Milwaukee, both of the Journal Sentinel staff, contributed to this report.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 17, 1998

No new leads on missing fishing boat

By Dave Umhoefer
of the Journal Sentinel staff
December 17, 1998
Coast Guard officials reported no leads Wednesday in their ongoing investigation of the fate of the Linda E, the 42-foot fishing vessel that disappeared without a trace on Lake Michigan on Friday.

Investigators have examined several barges and large boats that were in the vessel's vicinity, and talked to their crews, and found nothing to suggest an accident, said Lt. Commander Audrey McKinley of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Milwaukee.

"We've pretty much exhausted all those," McKinley said.

The Coast Guard inspected possible paint scrapings on a freighter in the Sault Ste. Marie harbor, but they turned out to be algae growth, she said. That vessel had set out from Chicago.

The Coast Guard officially suspended its search for the Linda E on Sunday night. The three fishermen on the boat were Leif Weborg, the 55-year-old captain; Warren Olson, 45; and Scott Matta, 32, who is Weborg's son-in-law.

Deaths of commercial fishermen on Lake Michigan are unusual; the last casualty was five years ago. McKinley said the Coast Guard had located a fisherman who was on the lake Friday and had some radio contact with the Linda E. That contact did not shed any light on the mystery, she said. It came before Weborg called Smith Brothers Food Service in Port Washington to report that the boat was on its way to port.

The Marine Safety Office is also trying to determine whether any modifications were made to the Linda E that might have affected its weight and/or balance, McKinley said.

One theory on why no debris has turned up is that the vessel capsized in some sort of freak accident or malfunction and everything was captured inside as it sank, McKinley said.

Volunteers, including fellow fishermen and friends, have taken up the search for the vessel. Unofficially, the Coast Guard also is continuing to keep an eye out for debris or a fuel slick.

The Sheboygan Unit of the Coast Guard continues to conduct training exercises in the search area.

"We have gone down every day since the search was suspended," said Jeff Rahn of the Sheboygan unit.

In addition, Rahn said officials have requested that Coast Guard Auxiliary planes fly over the area during training flights. An auxiliary plane from Green Bay may make a flight on the weekend to look for debris, McKinley said.

She said volunteers are trying to bring in sophisticated side-scan sonar equipment to aid the search.

McKinley said the Milwaukee office of the Coast Guard had requested satellite images of the lake but was told that no such pictures exist for Lake Michigan.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 28, 1998

Fishing melded the lives of missing lake crew

Relatives describe a bond formed by close-knit families, work they love

By Eldon Knoche
of the Journal Sentinel staff
December 28, 1998
Leif Weborg fished for chubs nearly every day of his life on Lake Michigan.

Before the sun came up he and Warren Olson and Scott Matta -- the crew who had fished with him for years -- would leave their homes on Milwaukee's south side and drive to Port Washington. There they boarded one of Weborg's boats, the Linda E. or the Oliver H. Smith, and chugged out to pull in their gang of nets sitting 200 or 300 feet deep along 2 to 3 miles of lake bottom.

Commercial fishing is a back-breaking, five- to six-day-a-week, good-or-bad-weather job. It can be 10 to 15 hours from the time a man -- and they're almost all men -- starts for the lake and the time he returns home.

Fishermen leave several groupings of nets in the lake and return to each site once or twice a week. As a hydraulic lifter reels the nets in, the fishermen hurriedly clear the chubs that have been caught and then reset the nets. The men dress the fish, put them in boxes and ice them. The task takes a couple of hours for a light load or as long as five hours if the nets are filled.

Fishermen go onto the lake all year long except when it's "a blow day" and strong wind makes fishing unsafe.

Though dangerous, "there was a comfort with these guys knowing what they were doing on the water," Lori Matta said. "We all felt very comfortable with their ability, the control they had. All three guys were professional."

Lori, the daughter of Leif and the wife of Scott, grew up in a fishing family with its roots in 19th-century Scandinavia and Door County. She is the only one of Leif's seven children and stepchildren to remain in the business, and she knows well the danger of the lake.

But "I was more concerned about their driving their truck back from Port Washington than being on the water," she said.

On Dec. 11 the three men and the Linda E. disappeared off Port Washington, not far from the shore. Intensive searches by the U.S. Coast Guard and other fishing craft have turned up no sign of the men or the Linda E.

"It's been a tough couple weeks here," said Mark Weborg of Ellison Bay, a first cousin of Leif's. Nearly everyone in the fishing industry along Wisconsin's shoreline with Lake Michigan are related by blood or marriage.

"And it's your profession," Mark said. "A lot of things weigh on your mind. Accidents like that could have happened to any one of us."

Leif and Mark's great-grandfather, Andrew Weborg, came from Norway and made his home in Door County, where Weborg Point in Peninsula State Park carries the family name. Andrew was a fisherman, as were his sons, Alfred and Art, and as was Alfred's son Emery. Leif is the son of Emery Weborg and Grace Johnson Weborg. Leif's maternal grandfather, William Johnson, also was a fisherman.

Leif, known as Lee to his friends, grew up in this fishing family in Gills Rock at the peak of Door County. As a young boy in the 1940s he went out on Lake Michigan and Green Bay to catch whitefish and herring. After graduating from Gibraltar High School, he sailed the Great Lakes for three years with the Reiss Steamship Co.

For several years he worked for a couple of distant relatives in the close-knit fishing industry and fished out of Kewaunee.

He had purchased a wooden boat, the Buccaneer, in about 1960 and started his own fishing company. In 1962, he bought a 42-foot steel boat and named it the Linda E. after his then-wife.

Leif later would purchase another boat, the Oliver H. Smith, from the Smith family known for its wholesale fish business in Port Washington.

By 1969 the fishing off Kewaunee had gotten poor, so Leif and his wife, Sherry, moved to Milwaukee, where they settled in Bay View. Like most commercial fishermen in the city, he kept his boats in the Kinnickinnic River between Becher St. and the Kinnickinnic Ave. bridge.

Leif was in partnership with his cousin Alvin Anderson for several years in Milwaukee. With another man the pair developed the Snug Harbor landing at S. 4th and Becher streets.

The Anderson family stayed close with Leif. Alvin's sons, Dan and Steve, share a net-mending and equipment shed with him.

"Not only are we cousins and animals of the same occupation, we split expenses and help each other out when we have mechanical problems," Dan said.

Dan fishes the same general area as Leif, and it was he who called the Coast Guard when he believed the Linda E. was in trouble.

The commercial fishing community still extends from Kenosha to Gills Rock, though the number of fishermen is falling. There are perhaps 35 to 40 full-time boat owners. Add their crews and the shore workers and the estimated total comes to between 200 and 300 workers.

Leif is known and respected among them.

"Lee was one of the old-type fisherman who knew what they were doing," Mark Weborg said. "He worked his operation efficiently and in the best interest of the industry. And he had been around. He'd seen the ups and downs . . . and weathered the storms in the down times and put some money away in the good times."

"It's unlikely you'll find fishermen hanging out at the country club," said Chris Svoboda, Leif's stepson.

Nevertheless, Leif, 61, has done well enough to give his family a good life. He and Sherry have a second home in Sarasota near his parents, and they get away to Florida for six weeks a year.

For years Leif has been the only commercial fishing captain docking at Port Washington and has sold most of his catch to the Smith Brothers Food Service. When the payment comes in, 40% of the gross goes to Leif's company for the upkeep of the boat and equipment and 60% is divided equally among Leif, Warren Olson and Scott Matta. (His most common practice recently has been to have one boat docked in the Kinnickinnic River and one docked in Port Washington.)

Warren, 44, whose family fishing history goes back four generations, has worked with Leif for most of 26 years with a few years off to fish with other crews, according to his brother, Michael, who also fished with Leif in the late 1980s.

The oldest of three brothers, Warren began riding the family fishing boat with his father, Warren Sr., at age 6.

"He lived for the fish," Michael said, "He never cared about anything else."

While a student at Marinette High School, Warren would go out on the boat in the morning before leaving for classes. In those years he spent summers on Leif's boat. In 1972, the summer after he graduated, he joined Leif's crew year-round.

Most men, like Leif and Warren, are born into fishing. Scott married into it.

Scott, 32, was born near New York City and lived in Chicago before moving to Milwaukee with his family at age 6. His stepfather, Johnny Matta, had several small groceries in Milwaukee, including Matta Foods on the north side, and Scott grew up working in the stores.

He quit high school to help in the stores and in 1986 was working in a factory when he met Lori Weborg through one of her relatives. They fell in love and the next year moved to Door County, where Lori had spent many summers. As a teenager, she had worked on fishing boats and sailed as part of Mark Weborg's crew.

The young couple struggled financially while Scott did odd jobs and construction work and Lori worked at a gift shop and a nursing home. Within a year or two he began going out on the commercial fishing boats.

It was an unusual occupation for a 22-year-old man who had been raised in cities and seldom been on the water. He wasn't even much of a swimmer and for a long time had a problem experienced by many landlubbers: seasickness. As a rookie he took the razzing of the veterans, but he stuck with it. He discovered he was not only in love with Lori but also with her family's way of life, his brother-in-law Chris Svoboda said.

In the winter of 1989 Leif called to say he had a position for Scott on his boat, so Lori and Scott returned to Milwaukee. They were married June 9, 1990, on the Milwaukee River cruise boat the Celebration. The first of their two daughters was born the next year.

The couple bought their first home in Bay View, about a mile from where the boats were docked.

The three men have fished together ever since.

"Once fishing is in your blood, you can't get away from it," Mark Weborg said.

The industry is not vanishing, but it's more difficult to stay in business because of competition from sport fishermen and because of more regulations from the state Department of Natural Resources, he said. "If you're a young person today, you've got to be nuts to want to be a fisherman," Mark said.

And, unless Leif and his crew return, there may never be another commercial fisherman working out of Port Washington, Mark said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 30, 1998

Sonar search may have located Linda E.

By Jesse Garza
of the Journal Sentinel staff
December 30, 1998
An image at the bottom of Lake Michigan that search crews have detected could be that of the Linda E., a fishing boat that disappeared mysteriously this month, a Coast Guard official said Tuesday.

The image was detected Monday about nine miles southeast of Port Washington and about eight miles off shore, where the water depth is in excess of 300 feet, said Cmdr. Dave Lersch of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Milwaukee.

Two search vessels, the Recovery and the Lender, have been conducting sonar searches of the lake bottom for almost two weeks in the area where the Linda E. is suspected of going down. The vessels are equipped with devices that are towed near the bottom of the lake, transmitting images back to the vessels, Lersch said.

"They feel by the characteristics -- length, width and height -- that (the image) fits the profile of a vessel like a fishing tug like the Linda E.," Lersch said. "The crews feel confident that it could be the Linda E."

By the middle of next week, weather permitting, a camera will be fitted to a remote-controlled submarine vessel to determine if the image detected Monday is in fact the Linda E., Lersch said.

"If it is the Linda E., then we will proceed with the investigation to determine what happened," Lersch said. If it isn't, the side-scanner sonar searches will resume, finishing the rest of the search area, Lersch said.

The search area extends about nine miles southeast from the mouth of the Port Washington harbor and is about three miles wide. The area is near the shipwrecks of two schooners, but neither is likely to have cast the image detected Monday, Lersch said.

The schooners "are much larger vessels," he said.

Additional searching will be suspended until Monday's find can be researched, Lersch said.

There has been no reported contact from the boat's three-member crew since Dec. 11, when 55-year-old captain Leif Weborg contacted Smith Bros. Food Service in Port Washington.

The two other missing crew members are Warren Olson, 45, and Scott Matta, 32, Weborg's son-in-law.


Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 17, 1999

Camera may reveal mystery of the Linda E.

By Jo Sandin
of the Journal Sentinel staff
January 17, 1999
Armed with an underwater camera like the one that photographed the Titanic and aided by volunteer experts, the Coast Guard cutter Acacia is to leave Milwaukee's harbor before dawn today with the best chance yet of discovering what became of the Linda E.

Cmdr. David Lersch of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Operation in Milwaukee, who has coordinated efforts to find the fishing boat and its three-man crew, called the search unique.

"Typically in Coast Guard investigations, we don't look for submerged craft," he said, explaining that such operations demanded more time and expense than the service had to offer.

However, in the case of the Linda E., he said, a "wonderful partnership" of the Coast Guard and the Wisconsin marine community has extended the search over 37 days and up to 330 feet beneath the surface of Lake Michigan.

Lersch said the operation had been able to continue because of the concern of the entire marine community, including salvage operators and firms such as Superior Special Services in Fond du Lac, which lent the underwater camera, monitors and technicians to operate the equipment.

The remote-operated video camera, which carries its own lights, is about the size of a large suitcase and the color of a school bus. It is tethered to the ship by a cable that positions the camera and feeds images to a television monitor and video recorder.

Lersch said the families of the crew would be notified first of any discovery. If all goes well, he said, by Monday morning, investigators may have an explanation for the boat's disappearance.

By 8 a.m. today, Cmdr. Karl L. Schultz, captain of the Acacia, hopes to have his 180-foot cutter in place above the spot nine miles southeast of Port Washington where Coast Guard sonar on Dec. 28 located a mass of comparable size and shape to the Linda E.

That was below the last reported position of the 42-foot fishing vessel. About 9:30 a.m. Dec. 11, Leif Weborg phoned Smith Bros. Food Service in Port Washington to say the boat would dock soon with 1,000 pounds of chub.

It did not. Weborg, the Linda E.'s captain, had fished Lake Michigan about 300 days a year for the last four decades. Warren Olson, 44, had fished with him for more than 20 years; Weborg's son-in-law, Scott Matta, 32, had done so for 10 years. All lived on Milwaukee's near south side.

Within hours of the news that the three had disappeared, other commercial and sport fishermen, and vessels from the state Department of Natural Resources, joined in a search that became the largest of last year for the Coast Guard's 9th District.

In the next two days, 3,000 square miles of the lake were scoured by private craft, 41-foot rescue boats, two rescue helicopters from Traverse City, Mich., a jet from Cape Cod, Mass., an Air Force Reserve plane from Milwaukee and the Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay.

They found nothing.

Volunteers combed the shoreline from Sheboygan to Oak Creek. Even tracking dogs failed to find debris fresh enough to be associated with the Linda E.

As soon as the search of surface waters was temporary halted Dec. 13, a sonar search was under way. Whenever weather permitted, the Coast Guard vessels Recovery and Lender used side-scan sonar, pulled on a sled beneath each boat, to sweep the lake bottom with sound waves in a wide fan-shaped arc. When the image fitting the Linda E.'s profile was located, the Coast Guard asked for the Acacia, a Charlevoix, Mich.-based cutter large enough to provide a stable platform for an underwater camera.

Bad weather and other priorities kept the Acacia from Milwaukee until Saturday. The ship docked a little after 8 a.m., having taken an hour to ram its way through harbor ice.

Today, the Acacia may penetrate the mystery of the Linda E.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 18, 1999

Bad weather, technical problems impede search for lost fishing boat

By Alan J. Borsuk
of the Journal Sentinel staff
January 18, 1999
It will probably be at least Tuesday before the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Acacia gets another chance to answer the question it couldn't answer in rough weather Sunday: Is that object more than 300 feet under Lake Michigan's surface the Linda E.?

The cutter spent more than 12 hours on the lake Sunday, but deteriorating weather, stiff winds and a power failure at the Coast Guard station in Milwaukee played roles in frustrating efforts to use sophisticated video equipment to see what is on the lake floor at the spot identified weeks ago by sonar.

"The logistics for setting up to do something like this are fairly incredible," said Lt. Cmdr. Audrey McKinley of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Operation.

The Linda E., a 42-foot commercial fishing boat, disappeared Dec. 11 with a crew of three -- Leif Weborg, Warren Olson and Scott Matta, each veterans of fishing work on the lake. The sonar signal of an object of comparable size and shape six to eight miles off shore and southeast of Port Washington was recorded on Dec. 28 and has been the only clue to what might have happened to the ship.

Among the forces thwarting the efforts of crew of the 180-foot cutter Sunday were changing winds that made mooring the ship problematic and the power failure back on shore that affected the Coast Guard station for about three hours.

McKinley said the cutter was using an antenna at the shore station to bounce signals for the global positioning system equipment it was using to find the exact place for the sonar reading. When the power went out, the cutter had to switch to using an antenna at a Coast Guard station in Sturgeon Bay.

McKinley said the crew did confirm the sonar reading that made the particular location the focus of the search. But it was unable to get to the point of getting any video signals.

"It's still promising," McKinley said. "They'd still like to go out there and identify whether it's the Linda E."

She said the forecast indicated that today would be ruled out for the next effort to solve the fishing boat's disappearance.

The Acacia, based in Charlevoix, Mich., arrived in Milwaukee on Saturday. The ship is carrying an underwater camera, monitors and technicians on loan from Superior Special Services, a Fond du Lac company.

Weborg, 61, was the captain of the Linda E. and had worked on the lake for four decades. Olson, 44, was a crewman for Weborg for more than 20 years. Matta, 32, was Weborg's son-in-law and had fished with him for more than a decade. They all lived on Milwaukee's near south side.

Weborg had radioed Port Washington on Dec. 11 to say the boat was heading in with 1,000 pounds of chubs. It never arrived and an intense search of the lake in following days yielded no debris or other clues to explain the ship's disappearance.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Thursday, January 21, 1999

Sunken wreckage isn't the Linda E.

Camera finds old schooner, not lost fishing boat, on lake bottom

By Jesse Garza
of the Journal Sentinal staff

Hopes that a sonar image from the bottom of Lake Michigan would be the Linda E., a fishing boat that vanished last month, vanished as well Wednesday when a camera revealed only debris from an old shipwreck, authorities said.

A remote-controlled video camera tethered to the Coast Guard cutter Acacia showed only a section of hull and mast from a "1800s-era schooner," vessel fragments that could not possibly be the steel-hulled fishing boat missing for almost six weeks, the Coast Guard said.

"We're sure it's a very old sunken wreck," Lt. Commander Audrey McKinley said. "It's definitely not the Linda E."

The 42-foot fishing vessel and its three-man crew disappeared without a trace Dec. 11 after its Captain, Leif Weborg, phoned Smith Bros. Food Service in Port Washington to say the boat would soon dock with a 1,000-pound load of chubs.

Also missing with the 61-year-old Weborg are Warren Olson, 44, and Scott Matta, 32.

Since its disappearance, the Linda E. has been the subject of a massive search that started with 3,000 square miles of the lake and narrowed to a 27-square-mile area southeast of Port Washington when a sonar search detected a vessel image Dec. 28.

The search area includes the Linda E.'s last known location.

The Coast Guard's Acacia, a 180-foot cutter based in Charlevoix, Mich., arrived in Milwaukee on Saturday with an underwater camera similar to the one that photographed the Titanic. The remote-operated video camera, which carries its own lights, is about the size of a large suitcase and the color of a school bus. It is tethered to the ship by a cable that positions the camera and feeds images to a television monitor and video recorder.

The cutter spent more than 12 hours on the lake Sunday, but deteriorating weather, stiff winds and a power failure at the Coast Guard station in Milwaukee played roles in frustrating efforts to use the sophisticated video equipment.

It went out again on Wednesday and found the schooner wreckage. Coast Guard Commander Dave Lersch said no other remote-control camera searches would be performed, and the cutter was returned to its home port in Michigan Wednesday night.

Lersch said the Coast Guard still has two investigators assigned to the boat's disappearance, one in Sturgeon Bay and one in Milwaukee.

Weborg and Olson had fished together for more than 20 years and Matta, Weborg's son-in-law, joined them about 10 years ago. All three men lived on Milwaukee's near south side.

As for the ship found by the Coast Guard on Wednesday, no name was visible to the camera.

Lersch termed it a "virgin wreck" - one that had not yet been discovered.

It would be almost impossible to identify the schooner without more specific information, said Jay Martin, curator of the Great Lakes Museum in Manitowoc. There were many wrecks on Lake Michigan in the 19th century, he said.

A 1964 chart of shipwrecks near the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan lists 261 wrecks between Milwaukee and Algoma - most of which occured during the 19th century. Victor Plantico, an archivist with the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Marine Historical Society, said wooden schooners were the predominant craft on the lake until 1890, when more and more steel-hulled boats were replacing them.

Craig Svoboda, a stepson of Weborg, said the search for the Linda E. has been "quite an emotional roller coaster, especially this week."

But he said the family has been overwhelmed by the volunteers who've searched for the boat, and "the fact that the Coast Guard has gone above and beyond the call of duty."

"I think the most challenging thing for the family is that there has been nothing ... no debris, no oil slicks," he said. "It has befuddled not only the family, but the entire community." Svoboda said it would be "extremely difficult to bring closure if the vessel is not found," but he expressed confidence that it would be.

"It can't just disappear," he said. "It's got to be somewhere."

(The rest of the article deals with a fund set up for the children of the Linda E.'s crew - Jim)

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 2, 1999

Task force to look into boat accidents

By Marie Rohde
of the Journal Sentinel staff
February 2, 1999
The U.S. Coast Guard has formed a task force to look into the disappearance of Milwaukee's Linda E. and an unprecedented number of other fishing boat accidents (note the assumption that the Linda E.'s disappearance was a simple "fishing boat accident" - Jim) that have claimed more than a dozen lives across the United States this winter.

Cathy McDermott, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard in Washington, said that in addition to the Dec. 11 incident involving the Linda E. and its crew of three, there were eleven deaths or missing fishermen from four East Coast incidents that occurred since the first of the year.

Cmdr. David Lersch, whose marine safety office in Milwaukee is conducting the Linda E. investigation, said the toll may be even higher. He counts at least 18 deaths involving fishing vessel accidents from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico in recent weeks. A complete list of the accidents and circumstances is being compiled.

"We are trying to see if there is some commonality in these incidents nationwide and determine if there are any ways to improve safety," Lersch said.

Lt. Cmdr. John Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Coast Guard district based in New Jersey, said: "It's unusual to lose this many boats in such a short period. It's definitely raised a red flag."

Commercial fishing is the most dangerous job in the nation, with fishermen facing a risk of death on the job that is up to 30 times greater than any other occupation, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

McDermott said the Coast Guard has invited representatives of the fishing industry to participate on the task force. She said she expects a meeting to occur in Washington in about two weeks.

McDermott said the task force would examine issues such as crew qualifications, training and performance of safety equipment.

But until the task force completes it work, the Coast Guard has asked the fishing community to take the following safety steps:

Don't improperly load boats in a way that could cause capsizing.

Carefully maintain hull and other equipment to prevent flooding.

Check lifesaving equipment, and make sure the crew is trained in its use.

Increase awareness of the impact of weather on vessel stability.

Most of the other accidents have had survivors or left clues of what happened. When the Linda E. disappeared, the crew apparently didn't have time to summon help. Also, no debris or oil slick was left behind.

The 42-foot fishing boat and its three-member crew disappeared without a trace on a cold but clear day. The crew was last heard from about 9:30 a.m. when someone from the Smith Bros. fish house in Port Washington had called asking about the catch. Lersch said the Linda E. captain, Leif Weborg, reported that the crew had netted about 1,000 pounds of chub and were heading in.

While the Coast Guard was involved in the initial search for the Linda E., it is now being continued by volunteers who have expertise on Lake Michigan.

Gerald Guyer, owner of the Pirate's Cove Dive Shop, and Roger Chapman, owner of International Marine Systems, have formed a volunteer search team looking for the Linda E. Guyer owns the sonar equipment that located the sunken 19th-century schooner that was at first believed to be the Linda E.

"We were out for nine hours Saturday, but the weather was too rough," Guyer said. "You can't hold your track lines when there are 2- to 4-foot waves."

The Linda E.'s nets were set about nine miles from shore and ran about two miles east and west, he said. That makes for a relatively narrow triangle to search, but no guarantees exist that the boat stayed within it.

"We know that they pulled in the catch," Guyer said of the Linda E. "And the nets had been reset properly. But what happened next is anybody's guess."

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 22, 1999

Better tools sought to find missing boat

By Jesse Garza
of the Journal Sentinel staff
March 22, 1999
New, high-tech equipment has been ordered in an effort to find the Linda E., the commercial fishing boat that mysteriously disappeared in December, a member of the volunteer team searching for the vessel says.

More sophisticated side-scan sonar equipment, a gyro compass and a chart recorder should arrive in Milwaukee by the first week of April, said Roger Chapman, owner of International Marine Systems.

"This is the best equipment you can get," Chapman said Friday. "This will give us better range, better sensitivity and better navigation."

The 42-foot fishing boat and its three-member crew disappeared without a trace Dec. 11 shortly after the crew called Smith Brothers Food Service in Port Washington to say it was bringing in a 1,000-pound load of chub. All three men aboard -- Leif Weborg, 61, the Linda E.'s captain; Warren Olson, 44; and Scott Matta, 32, Weborg's son-in-law -- were experienced fishermen, and Dec. 11 was a calm and mild day.

The U.S. Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Milwaukee is still investigating the disappearance. Chapman, along with Gerald Guyer, owner of the Pirate's Cove Dive Shop, formed the search team that has been looking for the Linda E.

A sonar image from the bottom of Lake Michigan that was detected Jan. 20 was at first thought to be the missing boat but turned out to be debris from an old shipwreck.

Bad weather and high winds have hampered search efforts since the beginning of the year. Chapman said he hoped the new equipment, along with better weather conditions, would lead to the Linda E.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 28, 1999

High tech sonar will seek boat

Search for the Linda E is revived six months after the fishing vessel disappeared

By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: May 28, 1999
A more sophisticated search for the Linda E, a commercial fishing boat that vanished off the Port Washington shore nearly six months ago with three aboard, may begin this weekend.

Underwater experts Jerry Guyer and Roger Chapman, who have led the search effort since the vessel disappeared Dec. 11, plan to use a high tech searchlight sonar device and recreate the much-believed theory that the vessel collided with another ship or barge and quickly sank. Since the boat and passengers Leif Weborg, 61, Warren Olson, 44, and Scott Matta, 32, failed to return to shore, the U.S. Coast Guard and searchers have few clues to explain the disappearance.

The 42-foot boat has been missing since it left the Milwaukee harbor to deliver 1,000 pounds of fresh chub to Smith Brothers Food Service in Port Washington. At the time the Linda E was last heard from, it was about six miles from shore and about nine miles southeast of Port Washington.

If the Linda E rests on the bottom of Lake Michigan, Chapman, owner of International Marine Systems, said, he will find it with the help of a Wesmar searchlight-beam sonar, a device he expects will arrive in Milwaukee this afternoon. The equipment, used in conjunction with a side-scan sonar and a straight-down strip chart recorder, will increase search power by a third.

"To do the job really well, you have to have all three items," Chapman said. "You can do it with one, but you decrease your chances of finding it."

The searchlight sonar, which costs "thousands of dollars," has the capability of sending sound waves 6,000 feet from the search vessel, Chapman said. If the sound waves come in contact with an object on the lake bottom, they bounce back to receptors on the ship for the user to interpret.

The device, similar in shape to a flashlight, slides through a pipe that protrudes up to a foot from the bottom of the boat. A dome at the end of the sonar tips up and down, sending sound waves through the water.

If paired with the chart recorder and side-scan sonar, both of which detect the profile of an object, the searchlight sonar "gives us range to search a bigger area more effectively and quicker," Chapman said.

He said he will use a robot armed with cameras to take pictures if the new device detects something that could be the Linda E.

"If you go over an area (with all three units), it's just not there if it's not there," Chapman said.

The device brings new hope to the investigation, said Cmdr. David Lersch, commanding officer of the Coast Guard marine safety office in Milwaukee. The Coast Guard, which played a key role in searching the shore for evidence of the Linda E, has left the underwater investigation to the experts.

Both Guyer and Chapman, who knows the families of the missing men well, are volunteering their time and money for the search effort.

"You can search a fairly large area on the surface by boat or by helicopter, but when you get the bottom of the lake in excess of 250 to 300 feet, it can take a lot to make it happen," Lersch said. "I trust their judgment."

Guyer, president of Pirate's Cove Diving Inc., has spent more than 100 hours on Lake Michigan looking for the Linda E. Although he is an expert shipwreck sleuth, deep water and bad weather make any investigation difficult, he said.

He and Chapman are primarily searching a 6- by 8-mile area between Port Washington and Milwaukee in water 270 to 300 feet deep. The Linda E most likely ruptured its hull and was overtaken with water or was run over by another boat in the area, Guyer said.

"I cannot, in good faith, think of anything except that their boat is on the bottom of the lake, and they're in it," Guyer said.

Guyer has proposed a plan to re-create conditions the Linda E would have faced if it struck another ship or barge. By playing the part of the Linda E, Guyer said, he hopes to learn how close the two vessels could have been when they first saw each other. Another boat will act as the other vessel.

The re-enactment will occur near the end of June, he said.

On Wednesday, Guyer pitched his idea to the Coast Guard.

"If it (a collision) happened, maybe he could find the Linda E somewhere in that area," Lersch said.

Guyer noted: "Unless new evidence, clues or theories come up, I don't know what else we can do but revisit the areas (where) we've been."

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 3, 1999

In the end, another tale of the risks of the deep

From the Journal Sentinel
Last Updated: Aug. 3, 1999
U.S. Coast Guard investigators are wrapping up their final report on the bewildering disappearance of the Linda E. - a report that will tell all of us, it appears, precious little.

There has been considerable speculation that the fishing vessel was run over by another boat, perhaps a barge that never even saw her, as she motored back to Port Washington last December with a load of chub.

It's a scenario that supplies an explanation and a culprit and, perhaps, some absolution, and it could be true. But the only real and absolute truth right now is that no one knows.

"As much as I would like to have learned what happened," said Cmdr. David Lersch of the Coast Guard marine safety office in Milwaukee, "the clues just are not there for us to gather."

Not in that report, anyway.

Lacking specifics, perhaps the only place to seek closure is in generalities.

The Linda E. was a stable, 42-foot fishing boat that went down on a calm, clear morning on its way to Port Washington. Although the fact it has not been found is unusual, the fact it went down in the first place - even on a calm day - is not.

During the months of December and January alone, no less than 20 relatively small fishing vessels like the Linda E. capsized in U.S. waters, according to a "Fishing Vessel Casualty Task Force Report" by the U.S. Coast Guard written last spring. A total of 21 people who were on those boats died, including three experienced fishermen on the Linda E.: Leif Weborg, Warren Olson and Scott Matta.

There is a natural inclination to suspect that the vast majority of those boats went down in bad weather, overtaken by a tempestuous sea or lake against which man strives and fights and, sometimes, fails.

In truth, "casualties rarely result from the sea overwhelming a seaworthy vessel and a first-class crew," according to the task force report. In other words, what happened to the Linda E. in calm weather, whatever it was, was not, perhaps, as unusual as it may have appeared at first blush.

Of the 19 other boats that went down in those two months - an incredibly high, but not unusual, number - major causes varied from problems with the boats to simple mistakes. They included: striking a submerged object; a dislodged "cork plug;" getting a line caught in the prop; overloading; stability issues caused by, among other things, ice; a captain falling asleep; and problems keeping the boat watertight.

Once problems develop, they can easily be catastrophic.

"A common thread in many fishing vessel losses," the report concludes, "is the suddenness with which they sink. Either there is a significant situational awareness problem or the problems develop so fast there is little time to respond."

That could easily have been the case with the Linda E. Using computer modeling, the Coast Guard did determine that, without damage, the Linda E. would have "for the most part" have been a "very stable vessel." At the same time, there is some information in the report, according to Lersch, that will shed some light on just how quickly a boat like that can sink or roll. There was no time to call for help.

The sad truth is that commercial fishing is a largely unregulated, incredibly high-risk occupation where crews are dependent not only on the water, but on their boats and their own perfection. The consequences of any break or lapse are often immediate and fatal.

There is still some hope for definite answers. Relatives of the missing men are still working to get the Navy involved in a more systematic search. And friends are still, occasionally, searching or re-searching an area thought to be the most likely grave. But it is hope, increasingly, that emanates more from the heart than the head.

In the meantime, if explanations are the key to solace, perhaps both can be found elsewhere.

Source: Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 5, 1999.

Report on missing boat provides no answers

Captain's family, citing Kennedy search, seeks help from U.S. Navy

By Jesse Garza
of the Journal Sentinel staff
A report expected soon on the disappearance of the Linda E., the commercial fishing boat that vanished off Port Washington in December, will make no conclusions on the fate of the missing vessel, though a collision with another boat has not been ruled out, a Coast Guard official says.

And with the mystery now in its eighth month, frustrated family members of the boat's captain are once again asking the Coast Guard to enlist the help of the U.S. Navy - a request that was turned down months before the Navy helped locate and recover John F. Kennedy Jr.'s ill-fated plane.

The recovery of the wreckage of the Kennedy plane, along with the bodies of Kennedy, his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister Lauren Bessette, was led by the USS Grasp, a Navy salvage ship.

"The Coast Guard showed very clearly what an incredible operation they have when they decide to utilize all of their resources," said Craig Svoboda, stepson of Linda E. captain Leif Weborg.

"What's frustrating is the fact they have been so reluctant to utilize those resources to find our loved ones."

The Linda E. vanished without a trace after leaving the Milwaukee harbor to deliver 1,000 pounds of fresh chub to Smith Brothers Food Service in Port Washington. At the time the Linda E. was last heard from, it was about six miles from shore and about nine miles southeast of Port Washington.

All three men aboard - Weborg, 61; Warren Olson, 44; and Scott Matta, 32, Weborg's son-in-law - were experienced fishermen, and Dec. 11 was a calm and mild day.

In the coming report, "there are possibilities but no conclusions," Cmdr. David Lersch of the Coast Guard's marine safety office in Milwaukee said. The report will be forwarded to the Coast Guard's Ninth District headquarters in Cleveland.

Capt. Randy Helland, chief of the marine safety division in the Ninth District, would say only that the investigation was still "open."

In March, Svoboda wrote the district's then-commander, Rear Adm. J.F. McGowan, asking the Coast Guard to enlist the help of the Navy's supervisor of salvage to help locate and recover the Linda E.

"I understand your disappointment with the Coast Guard's decision to not contract with the Navy's supervisor of salvage at this time," McGowan wrote in reply to Svoboda's letter.

"You must be aware, however, that despite all efforts, it is possible the Linda E. will never be found."

Wisconsin Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl and Reps. Jerry Kleczka and Tom Barrett wrote Coast Guard officials in April asking them to reconsider their decision on the Navy salvage unit.

Their request was also denied.

Weborg's family also contacted the National Transportation Safety Board, which is handling the investigation of the Kennedy plane crash.

"They told us they wouldn't get involved in an incident where there were only three fatalities," Svoboda said.

On July 19 Christopher Svoboda, Craig's brother, wrote McGowan, commending the Coast Guard's involvement in the Kennedy search and asking him once again to re-evaluate Guard's position on the Linda E.

The family is still waiting for a reply.

While the Coast Guard was involved in the initial search for the Linda E., it is now being continued by volunteers using a high tech searchlight sonar device.

The efforts have been frustrated by bad weather, problems with equipment procurement and scheduling, said Charles W. Henriksen, president of the Wisconsin Commercial Fisheries Association.

"It seems every time the weather is right there's equipment problems or other things," Henriksen said.

"There's a black cloud hanging over the whole thing," he said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 5, 1999

CG report to offer possibilities, not conclusions

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A report being prepared on the disappearance of a commercial fishing boat and its three crewmen in Lake Michigan will offer no conclusions on what happened to the Linda E., a Coast Guard official says.

The report that is to be forwarded to the Coast Guard's district headquarters in Cleveland will have "possibilities but no conclusions," said Cmdr. David Lersch of the Coast Guard's Milwaukee marine safety office on Wednesday.

The Linda E. was about nine miles southeast of Port Washington when last heard from on Dec. 11 before vanishing in calm, mild weather.

Aboard were Leif Weborg, 61, Warren Olson, 44, and Scott Matta, 32, Weborg's son-in law, all of the Milwaukee area.

Craig Svoboda, Weborg's stepson, has written to the Coast Guard, asking that the U.S. Navy search apparatus used to find the ill-fated plane of John F. Kennedy Jr. when it crashed in the ocean last month be enlisted to help in the hunt for the Linda E.

State Rep. Dave Hutchison, R-Dyckesville, said Wednesday that he has made the same request in a letter to President Clinton.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel web site. File Last Updated: Dec. 17, 1999 at 6:08:08 a.m.

Coast Guard commandant: Agency can no longer lead Linda E probe

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Wisconsin congressman said he will try to bring other agencies into the investigation of a fishing boat that vanished in Lake Michigan now that the U.S. Coast Guard no longer can lead the probe.

The Coast Guard's top commander said Thursday that the agency can no longer lead the investigation into the disappearance of the Linda E. and its three crewmen.

"We have done the investigation to the extent that's appropriate for this agency," said Lt. Cmdr. Gwen Keenan, a Coast Guard spokeswoman. "We are not in the salvage business."

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, met with Commandant Admiral James Loy Thursday morning in Washington for about an hour to discuss the possibility of continuing the investigation into the Linda E's disappearance.

Armed with about 100 letters from family and friends of the missing fishermen, Green pressed Loy for the Coast Guard's continued investigation.

"Unfortunately, it's his belief that, after a year of investigating this incident, the Coast Guard would essentially be exceeding its mandate to continue to lead this inquiry," Green said in a written statement.

Green said he will ask several other federal agencies - including the National Transportation Safety Board - to get involved in the investigation.

The congressman said Loy did agree to assist in an investigation.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in today's editions that Gov. Tommy Thompson sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater.

Thompson requested a joint investigation by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The boat disappeared off Port Washington Dec. 11, 1998. Presumed dead are ship captain Leif Weborg, 61, his son-in-law Scott Matta, 32, and Warren Olsen, 44.

No debris has been found from the boat since it set sail a year ago on Lake Michigan near Port Washington. A recent Coast Guard report said the Linda E. may have been struck by a barge, but offered no concrete explanations for the disappearance.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel web site. File Last Updated: Jan. 4, 2000 at 1:53:01 p.m.

NTSB says it will complete preliminary probe by Feb. 15 on boat's disappearance

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The National Transportation Safety Board will decide by Feb. 15 whether to do a full investigation of what happened to the missing fishing boat the Linda E., the board's chairman says.

Jim Hall commented in a letter released responding to a request by members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation.

Hall said the NTSB would review the U.S. Coast Guard's investigative report in the boat's Dec. 11, 1998 disappearance in Lake Michigan near Port Washington and complete a preliminary assessment by the middle of next month to determine what the NTSB might do.

The NTSB conducts full investigations of only four or five marine accidents a year and does limited investigations of another five or 10 boating accidents, Hall said.

"We could not at this point make an informed judgment as to whether any chance exists for a successful re-investigation of this matter," Hall wrote.

The Coast Guard report said the boat was presumed to have sunk and the crew drowned. The report said a collision with a barge was one possible scenario.

Linda E. crew members were Leif Weborg, 61; Scott Matta, 32; and Warren G. Olson, 44, all of Milwaukee.

Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., expressed optimism that the NTSB would investigate.

"It's certainly too early to say that we've secured the NTSB's help in this matter, but I am hopeful that, as they explore this case further, the evidence-or lack thereof-will convince them that this is something that deserves their attention," Green said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel web site. File last updated January 14. 2000 at 9:01:35 a.m.

NOAA asked to get involved in investigation into disappearance boat

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is being asked by Wisconsin congressmen to get involved in the investigation into the disappearance 13 months ago of a fishing boat with three men aboard.

"It's very important that the Linda E.'s wreckage be located," Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., and other Wisconsin congressmen said Thursday in a letter to D. James Baker, the agency's director.

"It is our hope that NOAA can use its technical capabilities to finally locate the wreckage of the Linda E. and help solve the mystery of what caused her to sink."

Green's letter was co-signed by GOP Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan and Gerald Kleczka, Democratic Reps. Gerald Kleczka, Thomas Barrett and Tammy Baldwin and Democratic Sens. Herb Kohl and Russell Feingold.

The boat disappeared Dec. 11, 1998, in Lake Michigan off Port Washington. Crew members Leif Weborg, 61; Scott Matta, 32; and Warren G. Olson, 44, all of Milwaukee, were never found.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said it will decide by Feb. 15 whether to do a full investigation of what happened to the missing boat.

The U.S. Coast Guard has said it will no longer serve as the lead agency investigating the disappearance but would be willing to lend expertise and resources to any other agency's search effort.