911 calls paint chaotic picture of Berlin boat accident

local physician involved in berlin township boating accident

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) – As the investigation continues into last weekend’s fatal boating crash at Berlin Reservoir, WKBN has learned more about the chaotic scene that unfolded there early Saturday morning.

Berlin Reservoir straddles the line between Mahoning and Portage counties. Authorities said a fishing boat carrying two men from the Akron area was hit by another boat, operated by Joseph Yurich of Deerfield, who is a prominent physician in the Valley.

Almost immediately, calls flooded into the 911 centers for both counties, but because of the commotion and the darkness, there was a lot of confusion:

  • Caller: “We believe they’re in the water though.”
  • 911 Dispatcher: “They’re in the water still?”
  • Caller: “We think so. We hear ’em yelling ‘help,’ but we can’t see ’em. We can’t get to ’em. We heard the boat going across, and we heard a big bang.”
  • Caller: “I can hear this guy, with no traffic, screaming there is a man in the water and they can’t get to him.”
  • Caller: “There is a guy on the water and they cannot find him, OK, the one boat went over top of the other boat.”

One of the men in the fishing boat, 58-year-old Neal Cuppett, died in the crash. A number of the 911 callers can be heard telling dispatchers Yurich’s boat never stopped and was seen speeding away.

As sheriff’s deputies and firefighters raced to the scene, the calls kept coming as witnesses worried the operator who caused the crash was going to get away.

“He is going away, he went away from Less’ bait shop, not towards the dam, he went to the other side of the lake,” one caller said.

“You need to go there, to that state ramp, whoever is trying to load that boat, from getting out of there,” another said.

Deputies at first could not find Yurich’s boat, initially thinking it may have sank as well. At one point, a deputy calls in with a description of the missing boat.

“Young gentleman here pulled up a picture of that vessel. It is white over red. Looks like a speed boat,” the deputy said.

After 90 minutes of searching, Portage County deputies did find Yurich at his lake house in Deerfield. So far, no charges have been filed.

At this point, officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are overseeing the investigation with help from the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.

Reports indicate at least one of the operators was given a blood alcohol content test, although the results of that test have not been released yet.

Officials with ODNR said both boats have been recovered, but won’t reveal anything else, saying the case is under investigation. Calls to Yurich have gone unanswered and staff at his medical office said they don’t know how to reach him.

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