EDWARDSVILLE – A Granite City man on a drone-flying trip with his son drowned after falling through ice while trying to recover a crashed aircraft.
In a press release, Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said the body of Mark A. Miller, 54, was recovered from a pond near the entrance to the low-water dam on Chouteau Island in the city of Madison early Sunday morning.
Madison police notified the Coroner's Office that a body had been recovered and requested they respond to the scene. It was reported that Miller had fallen into the frozen water. He was flying drones with his 11-year-old son when one of the drones malfunctioned and crashed on the ice. Miller told his son to sit in their vehicle while he retrieved the drone. It appears that when Miller walked across the ice to retrieve the drone, he fell through the ice.
His son had waited for his father to return and sat in the vehicle for approximately three hours before it ran out of gas. The boy left the car and began walking to get help. A concerned motorist saw the young boy walking along West Chain of Rocks Road, picked him up and took him to the Madison County Sheriff's Department substation in Mitchell at 9:03 p.m. Saturday. A deputy sheriff who was at the substation initiated the investigation.
Madison police and Madison County Sheriff's Department personnel returned to the scene and with the assistance of a St. Louis County police helicopter illuminating the area were able to find footprints that were followed to a point at the pond where a break in the ice was seen. Madison Fire Department was called out for the search and recovery and was assisted by Long Lake Fire Department.
The boy did not witness his father fall into the ice. He is with his mother, who does not live in the area and is divorced from the boy's father. The son was with his father on a scheduled visitation.
Miller was last seen shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday by his son and his body was recovered at 2:10 a.m. Coroners Investigator Sakina Hall pronounced death on scene at 2:11 a.m.
An autopsy Sunday revealed drowning as the preliminary cause of death. Routine toxicology testing will be completed before a final autopsy report is filed.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Reed Chapel in Harrisburg, Ill.