SANDPOINT — Bonner Sheriff has identified the man recovered from Priest River after rafting last week as 45 yr old Edward A. Martinez of Spokane. Martinez’s body was recovered Friday from Priest River. He went missing on July 4.
The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that a kayak team from Priest Lake Search & Rescue spotted the body of the missing paddler after the flow of the river was reduced via the Outlet Bay Dam, said Ted Tisdell, the search-and-rescue group’s incident commander.
Martinez was last seen upstream of Binarch Rapids.
His rafting companions saw his raft emerge from the Class III whitewater segment upside down an empty, triggering ground, water and aerial searches.
Martinez’s body was located shortly after noon in a submerged mass of downed timber and branches at Chipmunk Rapids, a Class II stretch of river near Dickensheet Junction.
Tisdell said the two-person kayak team harbored suspicions that Chipmunk Rapids might contain his body, but the water was running too high and fast to confirm their suspicions.
“When they floated by that logjam the entire river was flowing into that jam. It was covering about two-thirds of the river, so they had a real good suspicion that something would be there,” Tisdell said.
A member of the kayak team contacted the operator of the Outlet Bay Dam at the southern end of Priest Lake, who obtained permission from his superiors to close the floodgates by about 2 feet.
“He could only give us about two to three hours, so we had a short window,” said Tisdell.
The water level downstream of the dam reduced by 2 to 2 1/2 feet.
“It exposed him, but he was still in 10-12 feet of water,” Tisdell said.
There was no life jacket on Martinez and a witness told authorities that the man was not wearing a floatation device when they set out down the river, said Bonner County Sheriff’s Lt. Ror Lakewold.
An autopsy by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office is scheduled for Monday, Lakewold said.
The man had reportedly been drinking that day.
“Alcohol was involved, but at this point we have no idea to what degree,” said Lakewold.
It’s the first drowning death in Bonner County since the fall of 2009, when an intoxicated woman fell into Lake Pend Oreille at a marina in Hope. The last drowning on the Priest River occurred in the spring 2009, when a Spirit Lake man fell into fast-moving water while camping.