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Rescue teams recover body of suspected drowning victim at Cherry Creek State Park on Saturday

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and South Metro Fire Rescue crews located and recovered the body of the suspected 29-year-old male victim missing in the reservoir at Cherry Creek State Park since Saturday, May 7.

The victim was discovered at 11:11 a.m. on Saturday, May 14, on the bottom of the reservoir using a Marine Sonic Technology tow-fish sonar device, towed underwater just feet above the lake bottom. After the sonar identification of the suspected target, CPW's Marine Evidence Recovery Team (MERT) members deployed a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to get a video confirmation.

The victim was brought to the surface where a South Metro dive team turned the victim over to the Arapahoe County Coroner.

"Everybody involved didn't give up, no matter what the circumstances were and this is a great result of that,” said Jason Trujillo, Cherry Creek State Park Manager. "We offer our deepest condolences and hope that this recovery will bring a little comfort to the family and friends as they mourn the loss of their loved one.”

A number of agencies played a hand in this colossal recovery effort that lasted seven days. Rescue crews participating the operation included South Metro Fire Rescue, the Summit County Sheriff's Office, CPW's MERT Team and Park Rangers, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, the American Red Cross, Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States and two fishing guides from Tightline Outdoors who volunteered to help with the search by running their own sonar units. All parties came together to recover the victim and bring him back to the family.

The Arapahoe County Coroner will determine a cause of death and make identification of the victim.

"In a situation like this, our No. 1 priority is to bring the victim back to the family,” said Jim Hawkins, leader of CPW's MERT Team. "It is the families that keep us going during these recovery operations. This is very technical work that requires skill and experience. Not every recovery is the same and these searches are dynamic, but a well coordinated team effort among all agencies led to the recovery.”

On Saturday, May 7 at approximately 6:45 p.m. is when the victim went missing in the water after being separated from an inner-tube he was being towed on behind a boat. Water temperatures ranged between 56-60 degrees that day.

The victim was reportedly not wearing a life jacket.

This is the second drowning in Colorado this year. The first was a 24-year-old male on Jan. 26 at Chipeta Lake south of Montrose. In 2021 there were 22 total drownings in Colorado, which was down from the 34 drownings in 2020. That 2020 figure is the highest number of drownings on record in the state.

"We are also very thankful to the public for their patience while we resolved this matter,” Trujillo added, acknowledging the closure of the reservoir to boating for five days of this search.
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