July 28, 2010 in Idaho

Autopsy: Diver drowned in Lake Coeur d’Alene

Courtesy of Melissa Earl photo

In this family photo, Michael S. McCullough, of Rigby, stands with his wife, Jennifer McCullough, and his daughter, Lilly.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

A diver found floating facedown in Lake Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday died of drowning, an autopsy today showed.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said the diver, Michael Spencer McCullough, 31, of Rigby, Idaho, was wearing diving gear when he was found by employees at the Coeur d’Alene Resort golf course.

Rescuers cut the gear off of him so he could be lifted into a rescue boat, said Major Ben Wolfinger in a news release this afternoon.

Sheriff’s divers later retrieved the gear in 12 feet of water and discovered that McCullough’s air tank was empty, Wolfinger said.

McCullough, a middle school teacher in Rexburg, was on his first day of diving for contractor Bob Hamilton and was working to retrieve golf balls as well as trash off the lake bottom around the golf course’s signature floating green.

He had a large basket of golf balls with him when rescuers found him and was wearing a dry suit in the 62-degree water.

It was McCullough’s first day on the job. A family member said he had recently returned from a trip to Alaska.

He was certified to dive in southern Idaho, but had not dived since 2007, Wolfinger said.

There was no indication of trauma or medical factors that may have contributed to his death, the major said.

Melissa Earl, of Medical Lake, said her brother taught at Madison Middle School in Rexburg, Idaho, where he was named teacher of the year.

He was married and had a daughter and was awaiting birth of a second child, a boy, in about 10 weeks, Earl said. She described him as a family man who loved to play with his nephews and was skilled on electric guitar. His recent trip to Alaska was “an adventure of a lifetime,” she said in an e-mail.

“He really and truly lived,” she said. “He leaves behind a family that was incredibly blessed for knowing him, and students that will never forget him.”

The sheriff’s office said the investigation was continuing.

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