Search continues for presumed drowning victim

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Lakes area law enforcement and emergency responders have transformed the access point at Pikes Point State Park into a command center location as efforts are made to recover an apparent drowning victim. (Photo by Russ Mitchell)

Emergency crews remained on hand near the shores of West Lake Okoboji as the search for an apparent drowning victim continued Monday.

The Dickinson County Communications Center received a 911 call regarding the disappearance of 35-year-old Juan Miguel Gonzales of Sioux City in the lake at about 5 p.m. Sunday. A statement from the Dickinson County Sheriff's Office said Gonzales entered the water from a boat and did not resurface.

A full search was conducted until dark Sunday night and a surface search continued in the overnight hours. A full search resumed Monday morning and was still active Monday afternoon.

Crews are searching an area approximately 90 acres in size and in 40 feet of water, according to the sheriff's office.

The access point to Pikes Point State Park near Spirit Lake was blocked off. The state park beach is being used as a staging area while the search is under way.

Agencies involved in the effort include: the Dickinson County Sheriff's Office, Arnolds Park/Okoboji Dive Team, Spirit Lake Fire Department, Okoboji Police Department, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Dickinson County Emergency Management.

Veteran lakes officers faced similar circumstances in June 2010 when the body of a 30-year-old Carroll man was recovered from West Lake Okoboji following a prolonged search. Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials at the time said responders only have between 1-2 hours for a rescue mission -- if the missing person can't be found early on, the chances of a good outcome fade rapidly and the search becomes more deliberate and thorough.

Sunday's emergency call marked the fourth time this year that officials were called to the Iowa Great Lakes for an apparent drowning.

On April 9, 85-year-old Frederick Boer of Sanborn fell from a West Okoboji Harbor dock and could not make it out of the water.

Jennifer Johnson of Estherville jumped from her boat for a swim in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 10. The 26-year-old did not escape the waters of East Lake Okoboji and was recovered about five hours later.

Jennifer Galagher, a 46-year-old from Denver, had been swimming off the shores of West Lake Okoboji on Monday evening, Aug. 6. She was reported missing the following morning and was recovered in the area near Wheeler's Beach.

The Dickinson County Sheriff's Office plans to issue future updates through its website.

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