Fisherman Drowns While Trying to Retrieve His Keys on a Father’s Day Trip

Another fisherman who tried to rescue him remains hospitalized
Natalie Krebs Avatar
Wattie Capers (left) was hospitalized after attempting to rescue Anthony Davis (center; right). Photos via Facebook / LeftLaneonly TkArchie (left); Norretha Huling

A New York man drowned Sunday after attempting to retrieve his keys from a lake. A second man who jumped in to rescue him remains hospitalized. The drowning victim was identified as Anthony Davis, 44, of Clay, according to a statement from the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office.

Davis was fishing with Wattie Capers, 42, and another unidentified male in the Finger Lakes region to celebrate Father’s Day. An investigation is ongoing so it’s not immediately clear how Davis’ keys may have fallen in the water, but the men were reportedly fishing from a pier where the Oneida River flows into Oneida Lake. Davis attempted to retrieve the keys but couldn’t return to land. Capers jumped in to rescue him “but was also unable to make it back to land,” according to a written statement from Lt. Andy Bucher, who was unavailable for comment. One photo of the rescue shows that the Waterfront Tavern pier is several feet above the water line.

Around 9:51 a.m. officers with the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol heard “yelling for help” and “came across two people in the water that were in distress.” Officials were able to retrieve Capers from the water, who was transported to Upstate Hospital in Syracuse.

At 10:09 a.m. a Madison County NY Fire/Emergency Dispatch admin updated first responders about a possible drowning. Multiple agencies responded to the incident and at 10:25 a.m., the dispatch was updated to note divers from Oswego and Onondaga counties were on the scene with air assistance on the way.

A diver from the Brewerton Fire Department located Davis, who was pulled from the water and also transported to Upstate Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Davis is survived by his wife and children. Capers remains hospitalized.

“Quick update on Wattie Capers,” Antonise Capers said of her husband’s condition in a Facebook post Monday evening. “He’s doing a lot better, responding to commands, no more seizures, blood work great, all imaging scans were great today. Next step is removing the eeg and trying to get him to breathe completely on his own. I appreciate all of the messages, prayers, calls etc… please keep those prayers going because it’s working.”

Frank Vercillo, who heard the news of Davis’ drowning on the radio, says he spoke with both Capers and Davis shortly before the incident.

“Minutes before this happened my son Hank and I had the pleasure of talking to them both. We left the Waterfront dock at 9am,” Vercillo wrote in a Facebook post Monday. “When they arrived they asked us how we were doing and then wished us both a Happy Father’s day. Very nice young men. They were busting each other’s chops but you could tell that they were close. When my son told me they were the guys we were talking to I just couldn’t wrap [sic] my head around it.”

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This is not the first time an angler has drowned attempting to retrieve a lost possession. In 2023 69-year-old angler Robert Gardella drowned after one of his fishing rods fell in the Colorado River. Witnesses say Gardella jumped in after the rod but quickly came back to the surface where he struggled for a few moments before disappearing underwater; divers recovered his body the following morning.

The Caughdenoy Volunteer Fire Department, who responded to the Oneida incident, urged “everyone to wear a life jacket anytime they are near water, no matter how shallow.”