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Jefferson Award recipient brings closure to families dealing with loss

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Black River Falls, Wis. (WXOW) --- A day on the river for Keith Cormican is a lot different than it is for most people.

Keith is fishing for bodies.

"That's a very tough part. You've got to be in the right mindset to be able to do that stuff in very poor visibility and bumping into somebody like that. You know you can get yourself hurt if you're not prepared for that," said Cormican.

In 1995 Keith's brother, Bruce - a firefighter - was called out on a rescue that took him into Robinson's Creek, a fast-moving current near Black River Falls. Bruce was airlifted to a local hospital, where he later died. In 2013, Keith and his oldest son started Bruce's Legacy to carry on the mission of bringing closure to families who have lost a loved one and want to find the body.

"Our very first search, he went with me on. We drove 12 hours to North Dakota for a missing gentleman in a lake. We found him in an hour. The community was so appreciative. They gave us a ceremony. It was a tribal nation. Towards the end of this ceremony my son leaned over to me and said 'Wow, now I understand why you do this stuff,'" said Cormican.

Today, Keith uses a side-scan sonar, a piece of equipment that allows him to map a large area of water when visibility is poor. That piece of equipment combined with Keith's dedication has caused him to be wanted by people all over the country, sometimes all over the world. It's exhausting physically and mentally but even with the help of ever-changing technology, Keith says he has no plans of slowing down.

"I'll do it as long as my body will physically let me. I'm setting my boat up here and there with devices that will make those days become easier by lifting and hoisting things and let the winds do some things," said Cormican.

Keith's drive to help families is both a blessing and a curse. On one particular recovery mission, they went back five times but Keith says it's always worth it.

"We see firsthand what's it's like for these families to go through the grief and the sorrow that they have to go through knowing that their loved one is out on that lake and no one can find them. It means a lot to these families and that's what keeps driving us," said Cormican.

Keith says without donations they couldn't help families find closure. To make a donation go to or contact them on their Facebook page.

Heather Armstrong

Heather anchors Live at 5 and co-anchors the weekday 6 & 10 PM newscasts

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