55 years ago 29 families were hoping for the best yet fearing the worst.

The freighter Daniel J Morrell had gone down in a storm on Lake Huron.

One man would survive to tell a story that forever changed one Erie family.

The last trip of the 1966 season would be the Daniel J Morrell’s last trip ever.

On November 30th, the freighter had been reported missing. This rate films shows the coast guard search effort underway and hope for survival was slim.

“The worst part of it was they kept saying on the radio,” said Joan Ferguson, Lost Brother on the Daniel J Morrell.

Joan Ferguson’s brother John Michael Groh, a 1963 McDowell graduate was one of the two crewmen who were never found.

His friend Dennis Hale nearly froze to death in a life raft. This photo showing his rescue.

As the only survivor, he could reveal a fatal mistake how a line Grog thought was attached to that raft instead pulled him under.

“This is one part of the whole thing that just tore me apart. He was telling us what was happening and when he did he covered his face with his arm like this and said ‘oh my God, he tied himself to the ship.’ That’s all he said and everything was over,” said Ferguson.

“Unfortunate scenario for John and his family, but at least they had the solace of knowing what happened, how it happened. I can guarantee you if they ask any of the families from the Fitzgerald if they had one person to tell them what happened, they would love to know,” said John Debeck, Author and Great Lakes Historian.

But as a grim reality was setting in for the Groh family, another Erie man knew how close he had been to being onboard the Morell.

Harvey Hayes was a crewmember on the ship in 1965 and if it was not for a little girl’s last minute plea, he might not have returned in 1966.

“When I got to the door and was telling my wife goodbye, I had a five-year-old daughter that I had been home for the winter. She ran across the parlor and started getting hysterical, don’t go dad don’t go. She saved my life. Absolutely because I never would have survived that,” said Harvey Hayes, Morrell Crewmember in 1965.

The family of Mike Groh has no such story to tell, no way of knowing what could have been. Just the memory of what was and a young man sailing the great lakes to help his heartbroken mom.

“It tore her apart. That was her boy. She always thought that he might come home. She always thought that,” said Ferguson.

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