HOVEY TWP, Armstrong County — A 21-year-old Clarion County man drowned Monday night while fishing with friends in the Allegheny River, authorities said.
B.J. Howard Zerbe of St. Petersburg was pronounced dead at Clarion Hospital after his body was pulled from the river between Emlenton and Foxburg near Anton’s Landing.
Zerbe was under the water for about 20 minutes before rescuers found his body about 7:35 p.m. He was already dead before he reached the hospital, said Clarion County Coroner Terry Shaffer.
About an hour later, Shaffer ruled the death an accidental drowning.
Investigators, including state police and Emlenton volunteer firefighters, said Zerbe earlier that day had gone to the river with at least two friends, including his girlfriend.
At some point, he disappeared in about 7 feet of water.
“We think he was a weak swimmer,” Shaffer said, “and he went into a pocket over his head.”
His friends searched, but could not find him. Emlenton firefighters also were unable to immediately find him.
Rescuers used a pair of boats. Firefighters finally found Zerbe and pulled his body out of the water. Parker volunteer firefighters and Emlenton Ambulance also assisted.
Shaffer said Zerbe worked for a cement company in Clarion. The Hile Funeral Home in St. Petersburg is handling funeral arrangements.