Body of Southfield Fire Chief Keith Rowley found in Lake St. Clair
HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The body of Southfield Fire Chief Keith Rowley, who disappeared after jumping into Lake St. Clair Friday, has been found in the lake.
Rowley's body was seen by the Macomb County Sheriff's Aviation Division. His body was recovered by the Macomb County Sheriff's Office Dive Team at 7:10 p.m. about a half mile away from the original search area.
Rowley, 58, has served the Southfield community for more than 30 years. He was boating with friends when he jumped in to the water to retrieve a hat that had blown off the boat, said Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.
Unfortunately, winds made for extremely rough water, and Rowley was not wearing a life vest. Authorities presumed he drowned.
"We extend our deepest condolences to the Rowley family and all who knew him," said Southfield Mayor Donald Fracassi in a statement. "Chief Rowley was one of Southfield's own. He was known for his outstanding character and positive personality. He was an outstanding fire chief and was well liked and respected by the department and the community. He will be greatly missed."
Dive teams searched for Rowley in the lake throughout the weekend, but they didn't have an exact location on where he dove in. The GPS on the boat either wasn't functioning or wasn't on. Divers returned to the lake Monday morning to continue the search.
"The entire Southfield family is greatly saddened by the loss of Fire Chief Rowley," said Southfield Administrator Fred Zorn. "He was extremely well liked by city staff and residents in the community. He will be greatly missed and always remembered for his professionalism and his sincere, kind and compassionate character that not only made him such a great chief, but truly a special person that will be missed by many."
The owner of the boat, whose name has not been officially released, was arrested for operating while intoxicated. However, the sheriff said that did not contribute to the accident.
Rowley served as Southfield's fire chief since 2012 and worked for the city for more than 30 years. Friends and colleagues describe him as a consummate professional with a deep love for his community.
Southfield Battalion Chief Barry White said Rowley was his mentor.
"I've known Chief Rowley for 29 years," White said. "We've worked together for a long time. It's hard on his family and hard on everybody."
Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins said the city has one of the premiere public safety departments in the state, most of it thanks to Rowley.
"He has a ton of experience in public safety," Hawkins said. "I learned a lot from him. I took a lot of things that he was doing in the fire department and incorporated it into the police department. He's going to be sorely missed."
Southfield Fire Chaplains are offering grief counseling to fire department personnel and grief counselors will be made available to city staff through the Employment Assistance Program (EAP) as requested. For more information, call Southfield Community Relations at (248) 796-5130.
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