A sorrowful Skaneateles mourns John E. Kelly, SCS '94
Sirens went off shortly after last call Sunday morning July 8 at 2:41 a.m. The first request came through the county's 911 from a home on West Lake Street. A resident had heard a crash in the night.
"Sound travels across water," Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh said, who also grew up in Skaneateles and still dives the water.
Assistant Skaneateles Fire Chief David Card said the Skaneateles Fire Department launched their boat from the Skaneateles Country Club and made their way down the western shore.
Another call from someone on East Lake's Firelane H (directly across the lake from the first call) came in shortly thereafter. Finding nothing amiss on the west side, the fire department headed across the lake, which is where rescuers found two people in a mangled boat. John Kelly, 32, was dead on their arrival. A woman, Heather D. Wilkins, 26, was still alive. She was worked on by SAVES while the boat was towed to shore; Mercy Flight picked her up and flew her to Syracuse's University Hospital where she later died.
The couple had been in town from Richmond, Va. visiting John's parents, Ted and Sheila Kelly at their East Lake Road residence.
Left for dead
Because this was a hit and run, the emergency crews did not know what they were dealing with at the start. Upon finding Kelly's boat some 20 minutes into the search, Skaneateles Fire Chief Eric Sell said they called in the Owasco and Amber Fire Departments (who both also have dive teams) and the Onondaga County dive team. The Baldwinsville Fire Chief had been monitoring the report and called to say he was sending over divers.
There was the possibility of another boat, as well as other people in the water, Card said. They were scrambling to find out what had happened.