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Body recovered at North Lake State Wildlife Area after three-day search
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers on Monday initiated a search-and-rescue at the lake, 35 miles west of Trinidad, in response to witnesses who called authorities shortly after 11 a.m. Monday. At least one person on the shore tried to swim out to the man, but was unable to rescue him.
In addition to local CPW officers, the specialized CPW Marine Evidence Recovery Team responded from Littleton to search using its underwater drone equipped with sonar, lights and video camera. The Summit County Search and Rescue dive team also responded to the scene.
Search efforts went into the early hours of Tuesday morning and resumed after sunrise. The efforts continued late into Tuesday as the teams widened their search.
On Wednesday afternoon, the teams were able to recover the body. The remains were immediately turned over to the Las Animas County Coroner for identification and determination of a cause of death. The coroner took possession of the body around 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We offer our condolences to the family,” said Mike Trujillo, CPW Area Wildlife Manager from Pueblo whose responsibility includes North Lake.
Trujillo praised the first responders who quickly provided support including the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office, the Stonewall Fire Department and the Summit County Search and Rescue team.
Grant Brown, from the CPW Marine Evidence Recovery Team, said the rocky lake bottom made it difficult for sonar to isolate the target. An underwater drone camera ultimately captured an image, resulting in the recovery.
“These searches are difficult even with the best equipment and best-trained divers,” Brown said. “This is a good reminder to people recreating in our mountain lakes that the water is very cold and hypothermia can set in very quickly. Please be careful and wear personal flotation devices whenever you go on the water.”
North Lake was built in 1907 near the North Fork Purgatoire River to provide drinking water to Trinidad. It’s part of the 840-acre wildlife area that s popular with hunters, anglers and picnickers. Colorado Highway 12, the scenic Highway of Legends, runs along the perimeter of much of the lake.