As some of you know we traveled 16 hours to Watertown New York to aid in the search of John Villafranco. We were in contact with John’s parents Gilbert and Blanche Villafranco as well as the Watertown authorities to arrange us searching the area. Monday, May 5th we used the side scan sonar to search the part of the river where John was last seen. We then moved locations to a canal that runs between a set of hydro gates. With the assistance of some some polic
e and firemen we were able to lift our boat over the side of a wall so that we could get into the canal. This isn’t the first nor will it be the last time we have to get creative in order to make passes with the sonar or rov happen. After searching the canal with sonar we deemed John wasn’t there. We packed up the gear and made a plan for the following day to use the ROV in specific areas.
While in our hotel we reviewed the sonar images from the day. There was a pile of rocks with something wedged in between that resembled the shape of a body. Of all the images from the day it was the only spot we felt needed a closer look.
So first thing Tuesday morning, we set up the ROV to get eyes on our potential
target. The current was extremely strong from up river and at the same point we were working, forced a large and strong eddy current. Conditions were challenging and after some time we found out it was a log in between the rock pile.
An engineer from the hydro plant company was of great insight as to how objects collect in front of the hydro walls and how they pass through the spillways down river. He was generous enough to stop the turbines so we could make passes with the sonar the day before and also Tuesday with the ROV. After inspecting the hdyro gates we could see the debris piles and potential for something to get stuck but John Villafranco was not amongst any of it.
After exhausting all the resources we had and given the conditions we were working in, it was decided there wasn’t anything else we could do. It’s not easy walking away when you aren’t able to provide the closure to the family we had hoped for. We invest so much of ourselves into these cases and it’s incredibly frustrating to not give Gilbert and Blanche the peace they deserve. We can only hope for their sake John is found soon. The efforts of the Watertown authorities is commendable. It was a pleasure working alongside them and they were tremendous support every step of the way. We tip our hats to them because they’ve had to manage this case for over 2 weeks now.
We have never seen the type of water activity like there is on the city of Watertown. We had to be extremely careful where we were running our boat and equipment. I will post some videos of how close we were in proximity to some of this crazy waterway. Possibly a kayakers heaven but in a flat bottom boat with expensive equipment; not so much.