1998 David Van OPynen

In the early morning hours of Sunday, August 9, 1998, 19 year old David James Van OPynen went for a ride on a Sea Doo watercraft and disappeared during the dark, moonless night somewhere under the surface of Crystal Lake. Witnesses stated they saw Van OPynen buckle his life vest then leave shore towards the middle of the lake. He did a few tricks when offshore, and then went further out into the lake. Van OPynen was said to occasionally stop the Sea Doo and go for a swim, but he was not known to be a strong swimmer. The following morning his green and white Sea Doo and his life vest were found floating between the Van OPynen cottage and the Crystal Lake Yacht Club by a mother and son on Wave Runners. Van OPynen was nowhere to be seen.

Missing Person
David Van OPynen

David Van OPynen, a resident of North Carolina, was vacationing with his father and grandparents in a cottage on Crystal Lake.

The Benzie County Sherriff’s Department was notified and the largest body recovery effort in Benzie County history was launched. The size and depth of Crystal Lake, along with a vague “Last Know Position (LKP)” made the task of finding Van OPynen’s body nearly impossible.

Seadoo XP with Rotax engine

The Michigan State Police and the Great Lakes Search & Rescue team both mounted multiple search efforts with sonar, divers and cadaver dogs. One search did yield what was thought to be a body. In 2007, a Kent County Sherriff’s Department ROV came across a compelling target that resembled a body. BAPSDT divers inspected the target and found it to be geology.

Controversy surrounds this case as Van OPynen’s maternal grandparents believe their grandson’s death was intentional and a “cover-up” has obscured the location of his body.

A map of Crystal Lake in Benzie County, Michigan