Matt McCabe, a partner in plastics manufacturers' representative firm Great Lakes Machinery & Automation LLC and a former executive at Wittmann Battenfeld Inc., died Jan. 20 in an all-terrain utility vehicle accident in Fremont, Ohio.
McCabe, 43, was riding as a passenger in a side-by-side ATV when the driver lost control. The vehicle crashed through ice on a frozen pond and was submerged. It was -10° F with the wind chill that night, Ballville Township Fire Chief Doug Crowell said.
The driver was able to get out and seek help, but rescue teams were unable to get McCabe out in time.
“The news of this tragic accident was very difficult to process, and we are all grieving the loss of our good friend and colleague,” said David Preusse, president of Wittmann Battenfeld in Torrington, Conn.
Local emergency workers spent several hours trying to save McCabe from the frigid water. Ballville Township Fire Chief Doug Crowell said the two men were on the way to a friend's house and cut through fields in an unfamiliar area, when they went up an embankment and onto the pond.
“The ice when they crashed wasn't enough to hold them and it just went right through the ice.” Crowell said.
Rescue crews had a challenge getting equipment to the crash site. The rescue effort was hampered by the frigid, snowy conditions and the remote location of the pond, Crowell said. A country road led to a one-lane driveway leading back to a house. “And the pond was a couple of hundred yards from that,” he said.
There was 8-9 inches of snow on the ground with drifting conditions, Crowell said.
McCabe was still strapped into the vehicle, in a four-point harness, under the icy water. Two divers attempted to free him, but their equipment kept freezing. Emergency workers hooked a cable onto the ATV and winched it up. They tried to resuscitate McCabe. Crowell said sometimes people can be saved after being in the water for some time.
“We treated this as such. He had been in the water probably close to three hours,” Crowell said. Emergency crews worked on McCabe for an extended period of time, but he was pronounced dead.
“It's not the outcome we wanted,” he said, “but unfortunately, sometimes that's the way it is.”
People also stopped to observe the rescue attempt, causing congestion on the narrow road, which was cleared of traffic and shut down, Crowell said.
McCabe graduated from Fremont Ross High School in 1993. After earning a degree in industrial technology from Ohio University, he started his career as a sales agent for the Turner Group. In 2003, he joined Wittmann Battenfeld as regional sales manager in California. He moved to Connecticut in 2004 and was promoted to national sales manager.
McCabe later served under Wittmann Group CEO Michael Wittmann as the equipment maker's first international key account manager, traveling the world on behalf of the company.
In 2015, he moved back to Ohio and started Fremont-baed Great Lakes Machinery & Automation with his business partner, Mike Paeth.
McCabe leaves his wife, Abby Chudzinski, and two children, Isla and Michael. In lieu of flowers, memorials may made to his children's college funds in care of his wife at 1839 Port Clinton Road, Fremont, OH 43420, or to a charity of the donor's choice.
Calling hours are Thursday, Jan. 24, from 2-8 p.m. at Wonderly Horvath Hanes Funeral Home in Fremont. A funeral service will be Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph's Church in Fremont.