Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Missing since April 4

Sonar boat finds Washburn Pond drowning victim


BREWSTER – The body of 20-year-old Alexander Bravo Marroquin of Bridgeport, who drowned in Washburn Pond, April 4, was recovered by search and rescue divers late Tuesday morning, April 16, after a sonar-equipped boat located the missing man earlier that day.

The recovery concludes a 12-day search that involved a multi-county group of search and rescue units and personnel from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies.

Marroquin, the son of Jesus Bravo Gonzalez and Adelita Marroquin was known as Alex Bravo by friends and on his Facebook page. He was a multi-sport athlete at Bridgeport High School where he graduated. He was most recently an employee of Gebbers Farms and a Brewster volunteer fireman.

Bravo was fishing with his 18-year-old brother, Jesus, on the 119-acre impoundment in the Washburn Island Wildlife Unit five miles east of Brewster, when the canoe both men were riding in overturned. The younger man dressed in shorts was able to swim to shore but Bravo, burdened with long pants and boots, disappeared in the cold water. Neither man was wearing a life jacket.

The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office was notified, and searchers arrived on scene a short time later with a rescue diver who tried to locate the missing man without success. Search divers returned to search on a stormy and wet Friday, April 5, but were unable to find the missing man. Bravo’s boots and hat were found, however.

Bravo’s family put the word out to friends and community members for volunteers to help in the search for his body. On Thursday, April 11, search and rescue boats, aerial drones, and a specially trained cadaver dog.

Tracy Wessel, a Ferry County resident and K9 handler with Columbia Basin Research Dogs brought her two-year-old Belgian Shepherd, Carmella, trained to detect body scent over water. Wessel said when her dog pickup up a scent “she will tip her nose over the front of the boat and if we get right on top of it, she’ll spin around.”

The dog did register one hit, but the subsequent dive over the site found nothing.

Monte Archer of Okanogan who operates a video-photograph drone service, and Jason Ramos of Winthrop, both High Angle Rescue specialists, launched drones from shore that were able to provide detailed aerial views and Archer later equipped his craft with a polarized filter to help penetrate the murky water.

At one point last Thursday, three boats, two drones, and a cadaver dog were all on or over the pond at the same time. After a 10-day search that involved search and recovery divers, watercraft, cadaver dogs, aerial drones, shore observers, and family friends failed to find Bravo’s body, a request was made to Ralston & Associates in Kuna, Idaho, and the sonar-equipped boat, to assist in the search.

Gene Ralston and his wife Kathy have been responsible for locating 114 downing victims, including Bravo, since they began bringing their SID sonar technology to search efforts. Ralston initiated his patrol at Washburn Pond last Monday, April 15. At about 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 16, Ralston registered a target about 150 from shore in some 15 feet of water, said Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley.

Rescue divers confirmed the discovery of Bravo’s body and the recovery process was completed before noon.

Okanogan County Search and Rescue Director Rick Balam estimates that 200-man hours went into the search.


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