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Deadly ride on the Cal-Sag

  • Written by Bob Rakow

PAGE-1-five-col-boats2Rescue boats search for bodies of boaters on the Cal-Sag channel on Saturday afternoon after a crash involving a pleasure boat and a barge occurred the night before. Photos by Jeff Vorva.Three people killed after boat hits barge

  Bob Bielarz’s pleasure craft was approaching the Worth boat launch late Friday night after a cruise along the Cal-Sag Channel when the unthinkable happened: the boat collided with a 66-foot barge.

  Bielarz’s body was recovered Monday morning approximately 1.5 miles west of the boat launch. He was not wearing a life jacket, authorities said. He was the last of the three victims recovered during the search.
  The bodies of Bielarz’s wife, Viengsavanh, 40, and their friend, Jeremy Muzika, 33, of Palos Hills, were recovered from the channel Saturday afternoon, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
  Neither was wearing a life jacket, according to the Coast Guard. They died of drowning and multiple injuries following the collision. Their deaths were ruled accidental. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday for Bob Bielarz’s body, authorities said.
  Bielarz, of Orland Park, was a local musician who, according to the heavy metal website Loudwire, played in the Chicago nu-metal band No One from 2000-2003 and again in 2010 when the band reunited.
  No One released one self-titled album in 2001 via Immortal Records and played alongside several other bands on the second stage at Ozzfest 2001. No One also performed as a part of the Pledge of Allegiance tour, which was co-headlined by Slipknot and System of a Down.
  Muzika played in a local cover band with Bielarz.
  The crash was reported at about 11 p.m. on Friday when a crew member of the towing vessel notified the Coast Guard station in Milwaukee of the collision with the 19-foot pleasure craft at mile marker 311 of the Cal-Sag Channel.
  The cause of the collision remained under investigation. The boat capsized and had significant damage after colliding with the barge, Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials said.
  The Coast Guard and other emergency responders immediately began searching for occupants of the pleasure craft.
  The search team included a Coast Guard response boat stationed at Calumet Harbor, a helicopter aircrew stationed at the Coast Guard Air Facility in Waukegan, inspectors from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Chicago and crews from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  The Palos Hills and Lockport fire departments and Palos Hills and Worth police departments also were on the scene. Dive teams using side-scan sonar also were instrumental in the search, which lasted several hours before switching from a search-and-rescue to recovery operation, officials said.
  Chicago Ridge’s Frank Mastalerz, owner of FM Entertainment, which books shows throughout the Midwest, said he was promoting Throttle Fest on Friday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview when he heard the news of the accident.
  “Halestorm had just gotten off the stage and I was actually standing with a lot of mutual friends of Bob’s,” said Mastalerz, a friend of Bielarz for more than 20 years. “We all started receiving texts about what happened. Here we were all having a good time and the next thing we knew, we were all trying to make sense out of all of it. It’s so sad.”
  Bielarz was a central figure in the Chicago area music scene, which is mourning his death, Mastalerz said.
  “Bob and his wife were sincere, genuine people and they were truly in love. This is so sad because the music community in this area is so close knit,” he said. “Since this happened, I was able to look back at some photos, There were so many good times I remember with Bob and his group and there were so many good times I had forgotten about. It’s unfortunate to see the good times end.’’
  As of press time, funeral arrangements were not announced, but Mastalerz predicted “There will be a massive turnout.’’
—Jeff Vorva contributed to this report