Side Scan Sonar Search & Recovery

Bruce’s Legacy is a 501 (C)(3) volunteer organization providing emergency assistance, education, public safety awareness and search and recovery operations for drowned victims to provide resolution for families.

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Helping to provide resolution for families of tragic water incidents and drownings
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Pyramid Lake, Nevada Search

Ryan Osberg

Ryan Osberg

Bob Glennon

Bob Glennon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan. 1st, 2016 Ryan Osberg and Bob Glennon went fishing on Pyramid Lake NV. When the two did not return, the authorities were notified.  Their truck was found near tire tracks of where they may have launched their boat.

Jan. 14th I was first contacted by a friend of one of the families looking for help to locate Ryan and Bob. It was reported that the search was called off by the Paiute Tribe Unit until they had a better-known location and weather.

Monday Jan. 25th we were asked by Ryan’s sister to come locate Ryan and Bob. Ryan’s sister put me in contact with the Paiute Tribal Emergency Response Coordinator and the Washoe County Dive Coordinator.  After a phone conversation with both agencies, I felt that we would get their cooperation to conduct a search.

There were some lake access permits that needed prior approval from the tribal council allowing us access to the lake to conduct our search. I mentioned that I have a business trip and I fly out of Chicago early on Feb. 9th. That means I would have to leave on Feb. 5th to make it back in time. The Tribal EMC said he would see what he could do.

Thursday Jan. 28th Beth and I left WI towing our boat for 1900 miles and a 30-hour drive. We got stuck in Wells, NV due to a couple of semi’s that was blocking I-80 from an accident. We woke up to 6” of snow the next morning. We made it to the Reno Hotel to meet with the family and friends that came from California that evening. We then found the family was not getting the cooperation they had hoped from the tribe in expediting permission for this specific search operation.

Sunday Jan. 31st We met with the Tribal EMC at their lodge. He agreed to set up a meeting with the Tribal Chairman in the morning and call us with the time. The family then went to the Ranger Station in which they were able to purchase the initial permit that all boaters have to purchase to be out on the lake.

Monday, Feb. 1st Late into the afternoon and the Tribal EMC had not yet called as promised. Along with the family, we decided to put the boat in and finish out the last couple of hours of the day on the lake scanning with sonar since we did have a boating permit.

We were about 1 ½ hours into our search when I got a call to come to the boat landing. I was met by the Tribal EMC and two more from the tribe. The family arrived with me where a heated discussion took place. I then was ordered off the Tribal Nation Reservation which surrounds and includes Lake Pyramid. We packed up and left. AND NOBODY ONE ENDED UP IN THE WATER!

Tuesday Feb. 2nd and Wednesday Feb. 3rd the family spent pleading with the Tribal folks to let us search and bring home their loved ones.

Wednesday Feb. 3rd in the afternoon, I was notified by the family that they were granted permission for us to operate on Pyramid Lake.

The families’ strong will and determination to have a chance to get their family members back home is what persuaded the council members to give us the permission to operate on their lake.

Feb. 4th We got back on the water all day Thursday and got a large area covered by sonar. We had no solid targets of interest.

Feb 5th  Friday was pretty windy but we stayed with it. Late in the day we felt that we found both the gentlemen. I notified the authorities and sent them the images. The Sheriff’s Department Dive Team was then scheduled to come out and join the search, so this worked out perfect. We agreed on a meeting time for the next day. The depth was 130’ and including the elevation; 145’. Now it would need to be considered a technical dive limit.

Saturday Feb. 6th  I was pleasantly surprised with the boats and manpower that had showed up to assist.  The team leaders asked how I envisioned this search to proceed.  When I got done with this interview I was impressed with the questions they asked. They agreed to everything and we began to brief the team.

At this depth, we needed to get our metal cage located within a few feet of our targets, to allow a diver to drop down a line from the surface to the cage right where the target is. It was afternoon by the time the first target was marked appropriately. We then decided to dive the target. The Washoe County Dive Team allowed me to make the dive and they were the backup divers. All went as planned and Bob Glennon was recovered.

Sunday Feb. 7th  We meet at the boat landing with the Washoe County Dive Team Leader early on this morning to get a good start. Once again things went well and with all the help from the dive team they put our cage on our target. All went as planned and now Ryan Osberg was out and on his way home.

Working for Bob and Ryan’s family and friends all week was amazing. They were always there offering their help and making sure we had what we needed. The hurdles they were hit with and the way they fought back; I can assure you that Bob and Ryan are very proud of them! I only wish that more families knew there are more options and resources than they are told by authorities at times.

Patrick Wetzel Search on Mill Lake

 

Patrick Wetzel Search Lake Mill Bruces Legacy

The Walworth County Sheriff’s Department allowed Bruce’s Legacy to join in the search for Patrick Wetzel on day three since the canoe accident.

Upon our arrival, Mill Lake had just frozen over completely with 2-4” of ice. With the help of some locals and their work boats, they broke up paths of ice that enabled us to travel about one mile to the search site.

After one day on the water, we collected four sonar images of interest to investigate further.

The search area from the previous day had again frozen over. Because of the amount of damage from breaking ice to some of the boats, coupled with unsafe ice conditions, it was too dangerous to put anyone out in this area. So, a plan was put into place to get scuba divers into the area as soon as ice conditions were safer.

Meanwhile, the Walworth County Dive Team continued to assess the scene each morning. Eventually, the warmer temperatures allowed the dive team to enter the water. They were able to make the recovery.

In my 25 years of involvement with underwater searches, I have worked with many teams and been blown off by many departments. I commend the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department. They proved that they will do everything possible in a search, while keeping all involved safe. I believe by utilizing resources that are readily available is the best action for success. The drive and determination to not give up demonstrated by their dive team is also commendable. The conditions they faced were unfriendly and tough, but they showed up every morning to see what they could do.

I admire this organization for what they have accomplished!

My heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these boys. I appreciate Patrick’s father Mark, for understanding the decisions we make, to keep the rescuers safe while working these tragic situations.

Among our many challenges to conduct the search were:                                            

  • Ice on the lake that needed to broken up and path cleared
  • A brand new boat fitted with a new sonar and winch system that we had just configured without a trial run to see how well it would work together
  • A first-time boat operator that took off from work to help me out
  • The thick mass of weeds in this area of the lake made it tough to get good, clear sonar images.

Lake of the Woods Search

Lake of the Woods Search

On October 3rd, tragedy struck. The Lake of the Woods Sheriff’s office was notified of three missing men on Lake Of The Woods in Baudette, MN. 28-year old Keith Ayers, 24-year old  Cody Ostendorf, and 22-year old Justin Haugtvedt, all of Baudette, were last seen on Friday October 2. The trio was last seen leaving a resort on Oak Island in a 16-foot boat on their way to nearby Flag Island. Their capsized boat was found Saturday afternoon. Since then, 2 of the men have been recovered, but Keith still remains missing. 

Lake of the Woods search Bruces LegacyLake of the Woods marinaI had been shopping for a better boat to run our search operations from and with the help of our local Coop Credit union we made our decision to get this done sooner, rather than later.  I was planning on waiting until early spring but then we heard about the three missing young men up in the Lake of the Woods.

There was a Hewescraft boat dealer that had just what we were interested in and after some phone calls, we made the purchase. I then contacted the Lake of the Woods Sheriff who indicated they had exhausted all there resources and he would be willing to share his information with us. I then contacted the mother of Keith Ayers. She had traveled to Minnestota from Pennsylvania the day after she heard her son was missing. She said she could not leave without finding her son.

I then began to make the final arrangements and on November 18th, Beth and I traveled to International Falls MN to pick up the new Hewescraft boat. The weather was raining and very cold. I needed to outfit the boat with some electronics and our sonar gear so I ask the owner Rob, if he’d lend some space in his shop so I could do so.

Friday morning we arrived at the shop and he had two of his mechanics help me out with setting up the boat for our equipment. Four hours later, Rob of Baduik Equipment would not charge me for their labor and thanked us for what we do. What an amazing dealer!

Now it was snowing for our 4 hour drive to the Northwest Angle. There’s nothing like driving a new boat through a snow blizzard to break it in. Upon arriving we met with Keith’s mother and her fiancé in Roseau and followed them to Young’s Bay Resort.

Friday the 20th we focused our search in the area the first man was found. We only found an ATV with nothing else of interest.

Saturday the 21st, we woke up to a frozen Marina. We had to chop ice from around the boat to let it free. By the time we got everything loaded, a couple of boats had came in and broke a path for us to get out. We ended up with an interesting image that needed to be checked out. While at the resort for supper I ran into a local guy, Scott Kempenich. He’s working in the Northwest Angle and knows the lake very well. When I asked him if he could help out, he didn’t hesitate.

Sunday morning we were again frozen in. We chopped the boat loose and again there were some locals able to brake up the ice for us to get out. The winds were much worse and getting good images was not going to easy. We needed to put our dog cage on this particular target so we could then dive down to see what this image on our sonar was. The winds made the task of getting our dog cage close, very challenging.

The dog cage is a known target that shows up on sonar very well. We work this to our target so we can follow the line down to determine just what it is. This process allows for safer and more efficiency when sending a diver down to check out an object. The diver simply follows the line down to the cage, which we try and get within 10′ of our target.

With Scott and John’s help we finally got on it. The target of interest turned out to be a jacket that was hung up on a tree limb. This was identified by Keith’s mother to be Keith’s jacket. We found Keith’s jacket within 100 yards of where they found the first missing fisherman. By this time it was about dark and it was Scott’s knowledge that navigated us back to the resort safely.

Monday the 23rd it warmed up some and the ice in the marina was not as thick. The winds had calmed down and Scott was back to help Dave and I. We had another target of interest that we wanted to check out. It went much better without fighting the wind. We located this target only to find a tree stump that didn’t have anything around it. We then finished out the day running sonar without any other interesting images showing up.

We are able to tell Keith’s mother that he is not in this area anymore. We check every square inch up and down of this particular channel.

The hardest part of this is to make a decision to end the search. Coming into this 49 days after the accident was a long shot. But if you don’t try how will you know?

Lake of the Woods Bruces Legacy2 Lake of the Woods Marina Bruces Legacy

Lake Michigan Search 2

Lake Michigan Search-2

Lake Michigan Search Bruces Legacy Lake Michigan Search_Bruces Legacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday we were able to get our marker near our primary target of interest. The Ottawa County Sheriff Department came out with their ROV and confirmed that this was not what we were looking for. We continued to run the sonar and expand our search area with nothing new.

The weather started to turn rough on Thursday. The wind and waves picked up enough to prevent us from going out for Thursday and Friday. We were able to use this time to conduct some more interviews and learn more of the men’s’ fishing habits.

We went on the water early Saturday morning and covered about 3 square miles in about 10 hours. Unfortunately the sonar imaging was providing no interesting targets. The weather forecast for Sunday, and most of the week, looked very bad to be on the water.

We got up early Sunday morning with high hopes that the weather forecast would be wrong. But the weather buoy was indicating 8’ waves. We met with the two families and they had decided it would be best to suspend the lake search. They have been through so much in this two week period and are so grateful for everyone’s concern and help in trying to find their family members.

I knew going into this search it was going to be very difficult. Due to the lack of a last known location, the time frame of the fishermen’s departure, the time reported missing and also that Lake Michigan is  an enormous area to search. We only had cell phone records that gave us 24 square miles of Lake Michigan to search. We accomplished to search a large area with what time we had. Unfortunately this time of year brings wind and waves which make our work and collecting good, clear sonar images pretty much impossible.

This search was like many we have been involved with. We meet so many amazing people and I would like to acknowledge some.

*Dave Sutton from Milwaukee, WI for sharing Bruce’s Legacy with a friend of the family.

*Pete Bosheff from Spring Lake, MI for making all this come together. He put the word out about needing a boat large enough for a large search up to 7 miles off shore. He then found the best boat captain in the area.

*Drew, Cathy and Chris Morris of Muskegon, MI for getting us out and back off the lake each day. Running sonar on a big lake in search for small items requires precise grid patterns. Their knowledge of all areas on this lake was extremely helpful.

*West Marine of Muskegon for giving Drew paid days off to captain the boat.

*Neil Squires of Byron Center, MI for supplying a boat and helping a couple of days.

*James Beech of Wyoming, MI that came out on the lake to help out.

*Joe Niewiek of Grand Rapids, MI for borrowing us a $100,000.00 boat. Having a large boat to work from was the key factor in allowing us to cover as much area as we did.

*Dave Niewiek of Grand Rapids, MI who came out to help out on the boat.

*Holiday Inn, Spring Lake for discounting rates for our stay.

*Baymont Inn, Holland for discounting rates for our stay.

*Cabellas of Holland for some donated items to aid in our searches.

The men’s families were incredibly supportive and made sure we were safe and had everything we needed.

It is with a heavy heart that we have to leave this search. Not getting the results we were all working towards is tough in these situations. We were told by the families that our being their searching, gave them some peace and that Aaron and Chris would be proud for all of the support that they have received.

Lake Michigan Search

holland2 holland3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct. 1st I received a message from a friend of the family of one of two missing fisherman near Grand Haven, Michigan on Lake Michigan. He indicated that two missing fisherman, Aaron Juarez and Chris Thode, their two dogs and boat, had been missing since Sept. 26th and the Coast Guard have called of their search. We started making arrangements and started out for the seven hour drive to Grand Haven Michigan.

We arrived around midnight Saturday. We met with my contacts and family members at a boat launch Sunday morning to get what info they had.

The coast guard had gathered cell phone records that would send us out seven miles off shore, in about 200’ of water. With nothing else to go on we decided to work that area.

Later that day we located an object that appeared to be a small boat. Now to pin point this item in 200’ of water when we have 600’ of cable out from our sonar, becomes a real challenge. We continued to work the sonar on Monday to better pin-point our object of interest. We had been in contact with the Ottowa County Sheriff’s Dept. whom has a tow-type sonar and ROV (remote operated vehicle) which also has sonar. They came out on Tue and ran into problems with their camera. On Tue. we also had mechanical problems and lost most of the day but got up and running later in the day. We are still working on getting an ROV down to this to see if the item is what we are looking for. But working at this depth and distance from shore has proven to be more difficult than one can imagine. The weather has been good to us and the support from the locals has been great.

Angela Search Update 5/6/15

On May 6th, 31 days after Angela went missing in the WI River we put together another group to dive on trees underwater where some cadaver dog teams had some interest. Gary Goerge and I cleared the three snag areas by diving on them. We now have 2′-3′ of visibility with special underwater lights.

We know went to the “last resort”plan that we have been talking about for some time. Darrin, from the Richland County Emergency Managment lined up a local logger with a skidder.   We then hooked up the cables to the trees and pulled them up onto the bank to be looked over. We had boats in the water downstream and poeple on the high banks to watch for anything to come up. After the trees were pulled out we dove the areas to give a final check. Still no sight of Angela.

In my 25 years as a public saftey diver, I have never seen or heard of any recovery operation go to these lengths. The amount of effort and resources poured into located this little girl has been impressive. Although it is still hard at the end of the day, I know that we are given it everything.

Darrin will be continueing to work with the cadaver dogs and organizing shoreline searchs.

Our heartfelt thoughts are with this family each and every day!PICT0004

Angela Search Update 4/25/15

IMG_20150425_162922189_HDROn Friday the 24th , I traveled back to Gotham WI. I was met by one of the local wardens who volunteered to share his boat for the next two days. The Richland County EM coordinator, Darrin, along with volunteers Jim, Pat, and Mike, were again on hand as they have been every day that I have been here. We collected more sonar images in the areas deemed most likely to render results.  But the afternoon rain came in and unfortunately cut our day a little short. This gave me more opportunity to sit in the motel room to review all of our images multiple times. Sadly, there was nothing of interest showing up with the sonar search. I kept going over past sonar images and still nothing new.

On Saturday we meet at the boat landing again with the same guys. My plan was to put the ROV in and check more of the tree and the brush piles that are underwater. The Remote Operated Vehicle is operated from the boat or from the shore and is equipped with lights and an HD camera, which allows us to see what is on the bottom without getting wet.  This cost of the system is $85,000.00 and with the combination of possible snags and current, there is always the risk of getting the ROV hung up, which I did. With the help of the folks in the other two boats, we did succeed in freeing the equipment each time it was hung up. Again, we found nothing.

Angela has been missing now for about 20 days. I have spent 7 of those days on the river with many volunteers in hopes of bringing a tiny bit of comfort to a desperate family. Many of the local volunteers have spent many more days assisting in the recovery efforts, and local’s Pat and Mike have spent every day doing shoreline searches by boat. The county officials have poured a lot of resources into the search for Angela, including cadaver dogs, planes, a helicopter, a drone, dragging operations, and organized shoreline searches.

Rivers are the most difficult bodies of water in which to work. Poor visibility along with debris, make recoveries very complicated and sometimes the result does not align with our relentless desire for a recovery. During the searches, I have come to realize how important it is to keep the families up to date.  The hardest part of what I do is to actually make that call to let someone know that we did not find their loved one.  I can’t even begin to imagine what Angela’s mom and family are going through each day. She has been very understanding and grateful for what everyone is doing. I regret that I have not been able to offer them the solace that I so desperately wanted them to find during this time. Even though I realize it is not enough to compensate for their loss, the support of a great community will continue to wrap the family in comfort as everyone continues to support for this family.

Search for Angela in Gotham, WI

IMG_20150410_102258649While we were wrapping up a week-long search in Arkansas to help locate Stacey Hernandez, I began receiving messages about four-year-old Angela, whose family reported her missing on Monday near the Wisconsin River. Then I received a call from Angela’s mother asking if we could help her find her daughter. There was no way I could turn her down. I immediately began making plans to head down in order to assist the Lone Rock residents in their search for Angela, who was last seen playing on the riverbank. Scott was not able to make this journey because he needed to return to work. After the twelve-hour drive from Arkansas and a few hours of sleep, I left for Gotham, WI, where I was met by numerous volunteers.  Again, the rain was off and on all day, limiting the amount of time we were able to run the sonar equipment.

On day two, we deployed the ROV in the area of interest. I was told that with the recent rain, the water level had already gone up about 3 feet from the time of Angela’s disappearance. I was in an area where visibility is normally 1 to 2 feet, but today visibility was hovered at 0. I suited up with the back-up divers from the local fire department, and unfortunately we did not have success locating the little girl. Tonight I am reviewing sonar images, and tomorrow we will head back out to the river to continue the search in hopes of locating Angela in an attempt to bring a bit of comfort to a family in desperate need of closure during a tragic time.

Stacey Hernandez located and recovered from Beaver Lake in Arkansas

On Tuesday, April 7th, we found Stacey and were able to bring her home. Our seven-day search on Beaver Lake brought big challenges. We experienced mechanical problems, along with the poor weather conditions that resulted in delays. The lake is man made and has standing trees everywhere beneath the surface. It is a very large lake, and we had areas as deep as 150 feet. Stacey’s last known location was very vague due to the fact that all the survivors fell into 50-degree water approximately a half mile from either shore. A storm rolled in fast, created waves and intensified the current, making it difficult for the boaters to battle.

First I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to Stacy’s family and friends, especially her young son. I would like to thank Scott Moldenhauer for dropping everything and missing work to help me make this 12 hour journey to Arkansas. I am grateful for the help of local resident Brian Slone for helping us on the boat. I would also like to thank Liseth, a friend of Stacey’s family, who arranged our lodging at Embassy Suites, where she works. Special thanks to Mike of Prairie Creek Marina for the use of the pontoon and finally to the Benton County Dive Team. Finally, a very special thanks to 12-year-old Nicholas, one of the survivors that provided a key piece of the puzzle that led us to the right area.

Please “SHARE” Bruce’s Legacy on Facebook to help us spread the word about our work, so families who are in need of our services have another resource to which they can tap into in order to find their missing loved ones. Please donate to help keep Bruce’s Legacy going. If you know of some avenues for us to explore that will help us provide help to more people, please contact us. While we provide services for families in crisis, we face major expenses in order to make these types of searches happen. Being that this is a 501c non-profit organization, your donations are tax deductible. We are trying to raise funds to buy the right boat for our operations. A cause that would help us increase the efficiency of our searches and ultimately help more families.


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Arkansas Search

On March 30th I received a call from a family member of Stacey Hernandez. On March 24th Stacey went missing while canoeing with her family on Beaver Lake, Rogers Arkansas. The local authorities had just called off their water search after nearly a week of searching.

Scott and I packed up for the 12 hour road trip south and arrived the late afternoon of March 31. The family found us a pontoon boat for us to operate from.

April 1 was spent collecting several hours of images. The search area is pretty large. This is a manmade lake and has mountain and valleys with trees everywhere. This is not going to be an easy area to find an object.
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