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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Provide assistance and support to law enforcement, fire departments and government agencies
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Kip Burrell Search

We were originally contacted by Jenny, a friend of the family, of Kip Burrell, just prior to our second trip to Lake Tahoe area around August 19 of this year. I explained that it may be awhile before we could travel to that area of South Carolina/Georgia. When our schedule allowed, unfortunately, the hurricanes were causing bad weather to that area. As soon as the weather had cleared, Jenny contacted us again. 

Kip Burrell had been missing in Lake Hartwell since around July 13. He and his wife Stacey, had gone for a boat ride when bad weather occurred and a wave rolled their boat enough to throw them into the water. The boat was in gear and left them in rough waters. Adam, a local fisherman and good citizen, happened to see Stacey just in time and could get her into his boat. Kip was unable to be located. It has been reported that up to 25 different agencies have searched with sincere hearts and great efforts for Kip. This community is one of great compassion and concern for their neighbors. 

Hartwell Lake is a huge man-made reservoir with a dam. It is shared by both Georgia and South Carolina. It comprises around 56,000+- acres and a shoreline of around 962 miles. Maximum depth is around 185′. The bottom has large standing trees up to 50+’ high in spots. It also has many tree stumps, branches, as well as abandoned roads and bridges.

Beth and I arrived at Lake Hartwell on Monday, September 18th. We could meet with Kip’s wife Stacey, as well as her son, Trevor and father, LeRoy. Stacey could accompany us on the boat for an extremely compelling eye witness account.  Adam, Stacey’s rescuer, was also able to give us his direct information and assistance. We met at Big Water Marina and were graciously supplied with a slip and much help by the owner and staff. Anderson County Sheriff’s Department was extremely helpful in making sure we had what we needed. 

Our actual search started the next morning. We began using our Klein Sonar tow fish for sonar imagery. The trees were very frustrating to deal with, as the tow fish is supposed to be kept at a level around 16-20′ from the bottom. With the trees in the way, we were running at a high risk of losing the tow fish and getting the cable tangled amongst the underwater forest areas. The Lake was calm but extremely hot and humid. We covered a fair amount of our designated search area on the first full day. I met with Stacey and most of her family to show them images of the terrain that evening.

The next day, we began using sonar again. We continued to work our designated area. Just after noon, we came across a bottom image that was undeniably of great interest. We deployed our Outland Technologies 2500 

ROV- remote operated vehicle -to get a live direct view of our target.  It was a man, we believed to be Kip. We secured him with our manipulating claw on the ROV. I called in Anderson County to assist. The ROV brought him to the surface.

We could bring the news to Stacey and her family, in person at her home, with Anderson County Sheriff’s Department that afternoon. Stacey, and her son Trevor, later accompanied us back on the boat that evening. They could see where Kip had been retrieved from and to leave some flowers and thoughts at the site. She and her family are amazing, loving people. They have our very sincere condolences and heartfelt prayers.

The next morning, we began our 16-hour drive home. We would like to thank the many, many people that contributed to our success in bringing Kip back to his family. 

Dan Pham Search

August 26, 2017
The day that Bruce’s Legacy located Marc Ma on Lake Tahoe, last month, an Eldorado County Sheriff’s Deputy contacted us regarding the case of a missing kayaker. In addition, a friend of the family contacted us the same day. Dan Pham had left Lester Beach to begin a four-mile trip alone, to meet friends down the shore and never arrived. There was little evidence left behind. There were strong winds that morning. He had a fully loaded kayak and was never found despite heartfelt local efforts. He disappeared on June 8th. The family has been left with many questions since that day.
Beth and I, came to the South Lake Tahoe the day after our locating Markos Alvarez in Stampede Reservoir. We met with experienced Deputies G. Almos and D. Frisby. They had information regarding some dog hits as well as a possible range provided by a last cell phone ping. We were joined by Justin Brown. He has helped with several missions now and originated from our Pyramid Lake NV recovery, of 2 of his friends.
The area in this portion of Lake Tahoe drops very quickly in a short distance with variable rocky cliffs and rock formations with crevices. We decided our Outland ROV would be the best tool for this geography and deployed in the morning. As it was a Saturday, there was large amounts of boat traffic, but we were able to search. We located Dan in 250‘of water in the late afternoon and contacted the Deputies. We contacted Dan’s brother Phillip to inform him. We wish all his friends and family our condolences. Great thanks to Justin Brown and Deputies Almos and Frisby. We also thank the Camp Richardson Marina for allowing us to keep the Legacy Boat on their premises.

Search Update – Markos Vasquez/Stampede Reservoir

Our trip back to California began August 21, 2017. Beth and I, were reunited with our friend’s help from KFC Construction, John , Matt and Rachel, to continue a search for young Markos Vasquez at Stampede Reservoir near Truckee, California.
We were able to gather much more information this trip and had first hand witness accounts of the events immediately following the incident. We interviewed witnesses individually, out on location, in the boat. We also met with Markos’s Mother and his 3 young brothers, as well as other family members.
Our first day gave us excellent search conditions for the sonar. The wind was fairly calm and the water quite smooth. We covered the southern portion of our search area but did not have targets for ROV deployment.
The second day we searched to the north of our previous grid and towards the very end of our day we located a target of great interest.
We deployed our Outland ROV and confirmed that it was Markos. We used the ROV’s manipulator to recover him in around 100 feet of water.
That evening yet, we traveled to Carson City, NV to inform his Mother and brothers. Markos has a strong, loving, hardworking family and of course we wish that this part of closure help them to have some peace.
We wish to thank all the witnesses, and all that helped in any way whatsoever. There is always an outpouring of aid from good people and without them it would be so much more difficult. John, Matt and Rachel- on the boat and helping beyond the boat- THANK YOU. We wish to thank Truckee Donner Lodge for assistance with accommodations as well.

July 2017 California Searches

On the evening of July 3rd, 2017, Auston Strole, a twelve-year-old boy was accidentally struck by a boat which he had been tubing behind on Shasta Lake, in California. He has been unlocatable and is presumed drowned as his life vest was found floating on the water with evidence of damage from a boat prop.

After local authorities decided to scale back their searches limited to the shoreline, a friend of Auston’s family passed our information on to the Strole family. His Grandfather Steve Cobb, contacted us and asked what we required to travel to California and search for Auston. We explained that we are a nonprofit and only require travel and lodging expenses.

Later that afternoon a businessman from Reno, Nevada called. He was familiar with our two previous recoveries from Pyramid Lake in 2016. He kindly offered to pay all of the expenses for our search so we prepared to make our way.

Sunday, July 16, 2017, Beth and I left in the morning from Black River Falls, Wisconsin on our 2100 mile, 30-hour trip to Shasta Lake. This has been our longest trip to date via the highway for Bruce’s Legacy to date.

After arriving at Shasta Lake early Tuesday morning we met with family and witnesses. We had the fortunate assistance of Rich Glennon and Justin Brown who are great friends made from our previous search on Pyramid Lake. They are family and friends to two men whom we recovered from the lake in 2016 and are now valuable assets to our team. We can’t thank them enough for their help and positive attitudes. We gathered as much information as possible and began our search for Auston.

We soon found that the Digger’s Bay area had the most difficult bottom composition we have yet to experience. The steep and rapid drop offs, with a depth of up to 350’ and a plethora of random rocks, boulders and crevices made it extremely challenging for our sonar. We also had the help of our businessmen from Reno; John, and Matt from KFC Building Concepts. These two were total strangers to the Strole family and ourselves, yet knew of Auston’s situation and simply wanted to help. They provided so much wonderful support for this search and also for the remainder of our California searches. Rachel was also of considerable assistance along with John and Matt gathering information and any administrative assistance necessary.

We spent seven days working in temperatures of over 100 degrees and felt that we covered all that was humanly possible. We were unable to locate him and unfortunately decided it was time for our search to close.

The entire community of Shasta Lake was supportive and accommodating. Many people from Auston’s family and friends should be commended for their efforts and kindness. Auston’s Grandfather Jeff Strole Sr., was there every day; dawn to dusk, patrolling in a boat along with the assistance of many, many others. Auston’s family and friends were a pleasure to work with and they exhausted all means necessary to do all they could do.


During our search for Auston Strole, John, Rachel, and Matt informed us of another nearby drowning victim in Stampede Reservoir. Marcos, 12 and his brother 14, were apparently on a trip with a church group and had ventured out on the water in a sit-on-top kayak. The vessel capsized in rough water. Marcos’s brother survived after being picked up by another boat in the area.

We headed that direction next and arrived in Truckee, CA, on Tuesday, July 25th. With almost no information available, we began our search with John and Matt assisting us on the boat. We searched depths of 200’ and after two full days of searching, combined with the local authorities having very little witness information, we had no choice but to end our search. More to add regarding Marcos later. Our prayers go out to him and his family.




Over one year ago on June 10, 2016, Marc Ma and several friends, ventured onto Lake Tahoe on stand-up boards out of Homewood, CA from an area near the West Shore Café and Obexer’s Pier. Conditions on Lake Tahoe were not ideal at the time for this type of activity and they had problems almost immediately. Marc became separated from the group, likely in a quest to get help. Marc was an accomplished athlete and College Football player. A nearby boat mechanic at Obexer’s Pier saw the situation and retrieved the others with his boat who were in that immediate area. He then tried to locate Marc but to no avail.

The local emergency teams, Placer County Police Department and Coast Guard searched for Marc. Additionally, a different private sonar search company was called in but Marc was not located and eventually, the search was suspended.

After Marc’s accident, our information was shared with Marc’s family by a family member from another successful search we conducted. We were contacted via email by a member of Marc’s family in April of this year but were awaiting confirmation to search for him. Since we were so close in the area while looking for Auston Strole, we returned contact to the family member and given the go-ahead to search.

On Friday, July 28, we arrived and met with Sergeant Detective Dave Hunt of Placer County. He was gracious and extremely informative and helped us with a briefing on the previous work for the case. There was a video from a live webcam recording which gave us some detail as to the area of the accident. Along, with other accounts of last possible points seen, we put together our search plan. We are thankful to be joined by Justin Brown, who had just helped us the week prior in Lake Shasta. Justin’s insight and technical knowledge were a huge contribution to aiding in our search.

Lake Tahoe is the largest Lake in California by volume as well as the deepest at a maximum of 1,645’ deep. The bottom contour varies tremendously with steep drop-offs and large random rock formations as well as cliff plateaus.

We searched with sonar all day July 29th and ended with a couple of interesting targets by the end of the day. We returned Sunday the 30th to recheck our targets of interest and set up the ROV but our battle with the underwater cliffs and terrain took up the better part of that day and we were forced to wait until Monday for another go.

Monday morning, July 31st we confirmed one of our previous sonar targets as a drowning victim with the ROV and contacted Placer County Sherrif Dept. Again, we would like to thank the entire community for their help and hospitality.

We wish the Ma family and friends peace and want to let them know our thoughts are with them.

The Gulf Search Update

On Saturday June 3rd, I received a message from Cindy, Founder of a non-profit group “Blake Terry Memorial Foundation” out of Thibodaux, Louisiana. Cindy informed me of a missing diver in the Gulf and asked if I could assist in locating him. Chet Cassell went out on a spear fishing trip to an oil rig 50 miles off shore along with two other divers. He was last seen at 40′ on the rig, putting a fish on his stringer. The seas where 6’-7′ and there was a good current. The divers entered the water looking for Chet but could not locate him. They then called the coast guard and they searched through the end of Sunday.

A group of very experienced divers from a spear fishing group called Helldivers went out on Sunday and searched the rig with no luck.

Cindy had contacted Okeanus Science & Technologies President, Benton Leblanc , in which they furnished us (free of charge) with a Klein 3900 sonar, the same model that I own. This allowed me to fly down. Cindy arranged for me to go out with the divers on their boat.

I boarded a plan from Madison, WI Monday afternoon and arrived in La Fayette Louisiana at 11:30 pm. I was picked up by Chet’s sister, Dawanna and her son Casey. We then drove a couple of hours to Grand Chenier, LA.

Tuesday morning we met up with the dive team at the boat landing. I hooked the sonar to make sure we had everything and it checked out good. Now for a 50 mile run.

Cassey had told me of the Sunday boat ride, that almost everybody gets sea sick. I started taking motion sickness pills as soon as I arrived after hearing that. When I got to the dock I noticed they all had the motion sickness patches. Now I was getting pretty nervous. The boat captain said the forecast was calling for 12-14′ seas. They asked if I was prone to sea sickness. I admitted I was and they gave me a patch.

We made it out to the oil rig in about 2.5 hours. The 32′ boat was outfitted with twin Mercury 200 motors in which made good time. On the way out it was starting to get rougher, I asked one of the guys what he would call these waves, he smiled and responded, “flat”. I was thinking more like 2-4′ seas and not looking forward to the 12-14′ seas they had mentioned. We launched the sonar and searched the area for most of the day. The depth was 80′ and a pretty clean bottom. If Chet would have been here yet, we would have found him. With the current they have out this far off shore, it is very hard to say where he could be. It was a long boat ride back to shore to say the least.

I spent some time talking with Chet’s sister and nephew about Chet. Chet was a free spirited kind of guy and he died doing what he loved doing, spear fishing.

Although I am feeling bad that I could not bring Chet home, I have some comfort knowing that Chet’s family realizes that it took a lot of people with big hearts to make this kind of search happen and that they have done all they can. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Chet’s family. He will be missed by many!

Boat Recovery – Altoona

Boat Recovery – Two fisherman out in Lake Altoona, WI ran into trouble and found themselves swimming for their lives. The waves picked up and flooded their boat. They struggled to get life jackets out and on by the time the boat filled with water and sank. A DNR warden, while on routine patrol of the county park, had noticed the lone boat on the lake. He looked away, but then noticed that the boat was no longer there. He called it in to the local fire rescue team. They rescued the two fishermen. Because they were lucky enough to get to their life jackets, they are alive today. The owner contacted a local guy to retrieve his boat, but he could not find it after two days searching the lake. The owner then contacted me. We went out and found it in 45 minutes. It was upside down in 12 feet of water. I had recruited some new help for this project: my cousin Greg, who lives the area, as well as Duane, from La Crosse. Together we were successful in rigging and flipping the boat over to be towed to shore. We then loaded it up on the owner’s trailer. The boat owner mentioned how tough it was to dig out and put on the life jackets in the heat of the moment. This was a good outcome. Please wear your life jackets when you are on the water! We never have had to look for someone that had their life jacket on.

Mark Graham Recovery

Mark Graham Search

Mark’s fishing boat was reported to be running in circles in the middle of Little Lake Buttes des Mortes in Menasha, WI. On Saturday April 1st, we were notified through social media about the missing man from the previous Monday. After seeing they were unable to locate the man, I reached out to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and did not receive a return call. I then reached out to the Wisconsin DNR to assist and they welcomed our help. 


Early Tuesday morning Dave Whitehouse, a Bruce’s Legacy Board Member and firefighter, and I traveled to Menasha. We met with local authorities and the Mark’s family. After 1 ½ hours of running sonar, we did locate a very promising image. The WI DNR then put their ROV (remote operated vehicle) on the image and verified that it was the subject. The Winnebago County Dive Team recovered the body a short time later. 

We were pleased to have a member of the DNR and the Winnebago Sheriff’s Office deputy, on the boat with us while on the search. I hope that they are more likely to invite our skills for these types of searches in the future. The departments get bombarded from the public with offers to help in these situations. I have come to understand that it will not always be easy for municipalities to seek assistance, but for the welfare of the families it can be imperative to know when to we should work together.


Adam Clark Search

Adam Clark Search

April 1st, Adam’s mother contacted us to search, a portion of the Mississippi River, for her son. His car was previously found, with no signs of Adam. They have exhausted land searches during the five weeks that he has been missing. On Sunday April 1st,   Beth and I traveled to Minneapolis, MN. We arrived at Hidden Falls Boat Landing and met with Jay. Jay is affiliated with United Legacy, a group that has been conducting land searches and has offered to assist us. We searched the area of interest. As always in the Mississippi River, there are a lot of objects on the bottom. We found an object of interest. I knew this had to be checked out. The Hennepin County Water Patrol was conducting a shoreline search in the area, so we called them over. They agreed that is was a target of interest. They have an ROV (remote operated vehicle) and offered to check the target out. They assembled their team and came out, but had problems with their ROV and were unable to check the target. As it was getting late, we agreed to stay the night and to put our new ROV in, to check the target the next morning.  

On Monday, we recruited one of Bruce’s Legacy’s Board Members, Josh Knutson to help. We met with the Water Patrol and went back to the search area. We located the target but found it to be a log, with a branch and weeds hanging on it. We felt we had searched to rest of the area of interest in the most thorough, but safe manner as possible.

This is an unwitnessed case, there are not many leads for anyone to go on. Searches can eliminate areas of possibility. I truly hope Adams shows up someday alive and that he just needed time away. For the family, I hope they can get answers soon. 

***Adam was found April 8th by a tug boat operator on Saturday approximately 20 river miles from where his car was located. Our heart felt condolences go out to the family and friends of Adam.


Search Update for Andrew Stifter


December 3, 2016

Lake Waconia, Waconia, MN Update

At the beginning of this week, I had been notified by some friends/business associates of a missing man in Lake Waconia Minnesota by the name of Andrew Stifter. He was reported missing Saturday, November 26, 2016. I then received a phone call from Andrew’s wife Katie, on the following Thursday requesting our services to aid the search. We were then put in contact with the Carver County Sheriff Department. Beth and I then immediately headed out that same evening.

Friday morning, we met with the Sheriff and the Incident Commander to receive a full briefing. We were also pleased to meet with Katie and Andrew’s mother, as well as another friend, for additional information. We were prepared to launch but during a precheck, discovered that our sonar would not properly start. The Carver County Sheriff’s Department was gracious enough to let us into their well-equipped County Shop to troubleshoot the equipment. They have an extremely knowledgeable staff, including Dan Sullivan, who was able to troubleshoot and pinpoint our problem down to a connection on our sonar cable. We then contacted Klein Marine Systems and had them overnight a new cable from New Hampshire to our hotel.

We had heard from the local Sheriff’s Department, that they were also bringing in the St. Louis County Water Patrol with Sonar, ROV and Cadaver Dog Team. We worked with Tom Crossman and Dave Phillips, of the St. Louis Team on a previously successful case on Lake Superior, in October. We were very glad to work with them again.

We decided to start out the next morning checking the shallow water with our Lowrance System, while awaiting the delivery of our new cable. To our surprise, it arrived midmorning. The Sheriff’s team retrieved it from the hotel and had it delivered to us directly on Lake Waconia. After a quick installation, we began a full day of grid pattern searches with the Klein Sonar.

We worked simultaneously with the St. Louis County Department, to search and eliminate a large area that would logically contain a location for Andrew. The cadaver dogs showed some interest in a large weeded area. It was discussed that it would be best to bring in divers the following day, (Sunday) for that attempt. This would be the most effective way to search this grassy and weedy type of environment. The Carver County Dive Team dove on this area on Sunday and could not locate anything of interest.
Unfortunately, because we had covered all areas that would be reasonable for his location with our sonars, we closed out our portion of the search to head home.

The Carver County Sheriff, Jim Olson, and his staff were unquestionably an honor to work with. The openminded and resourceful decision to bring in willing specialists from other areas, such as ourselves, is commendable. True leadership, in every way, was clearly evident and a great experience to be of service too. Thank you to the entire Carver County Team.

Videoray ROV article on Lake Superior Search

Complete article can be read HERE: 

Joint effort by Crossmon Consulting, Bruce’s Legacy, Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, and Local Agencies perform deep water recovery safely

The story was very sad, but also not unusual. Three boaters – aged 9, 43, and 61, had been missing for two weeks. A large scale search by the Coast Guard Station Marquette, Michigan, Coast Guard Station Portage, Michigan, Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Canadian Department of National Defense was conducted. Also searching were aircraft from around the U.S. and Canada including C-130s. The search covered 14,000 square miles over 151 hours, but was unsuccessful and therefore called off.

Crossmon Consulting and Bruce’s Legacy – both small organizations that are called upon to find drowning victims, sprang into action. Using their collective experience from many successful searches, they used clues such as a final cell phone ping to determine search areas, and towed sidescan sonars to conduct the wide area search. After three days of searching, Keith Cormican of Bruce’s Legacy located and identified the a boat the correct shape and size in 280 feet of water – well beyond of reach of most divers – with his Klein Marine Systems 3900 side scan sonar. Crossmon’s VideoRay Pro 4 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to confirm that the boat was indeed the right boat, and all three victims were located near the boat. Using the small, portable Pro 4 they retrieved two bodies from the wreck. The third was entangled and needed the efforts of an intervention-class ROV.

A few days later, the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, using a boat from Michigan Tech, used a larger vehicle with a cutter to free and recover the final victim. The efforts of several specialists were involved in this project – Tom Crossmon and Dave Phillips of Crossmon Consulting, Keith Cormican and Beth Darst of Bruce’s Legacy, and Hans VanSumeren and John Lutchko from Great Lakes Water Studies, among many.

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