On 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.
While 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.
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.
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.