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Search on for drowning victim along Idaho-Oregon border

The Washington County Sheriff's Office says the drowning occurred Wednesday night about four miles from Weiser.

WEISER, Idaho — Searchers from Idaho and Oregon are out looking for a person believed to have drowned Wednesday night in the Snake River, but river conditions have hindered search efforts.

The drowning occurred Wednesday evening about 4 miles west of Weiser. Chief Deputy Brady Johnston with the Washington County Sheriff's Office said dispatchers received a call at about 8:30 p.m. from a resident along the Snake River who had heard two men yelling for help. The men had been kayaking when Johnston said they were flipped out of their kayak and into the water. One man was able to swim to shore on the Idaho side of the river; the other continued drifting toward the Oregon side and disappeared out of sight. Johnston said they were not wearing life jackets.

"The water is unforgiving and unpredictable. The Snake River has undertows, high water, so it doesn't matter if you are a good swimmer or think you are a good swimmer. Right now, I would suggest that you just stay off the water with this runoff because of those conditions," Johnston said.

The man now presumed drowned is identified as Bernardo Garcia Jr. He was 50 years old, from Beaverton, Oregon. Next of kin has been notified.

A search for Garcia began as soon as the sheriff's office got the call Wednesday night, but ended for the night after crews "ran out of daylight," Johnston said. The search resumed Thursday morning, but at the end of the day, searchers were unable to locate Garcia, and went out again on Friday morning, Sheriff Matt Thomas wrote in a Facebook post.

Thomas said Friday afternoon that the search effort has already wrapped up for the day. Crews have had difficulty on the river, he said, because of high water, moss clogging boat propellers and jet skis picking up rocks. Thomas said the search on Saturday will focus on the same area downstream from where Garcia was last seen.

Washington County Search and Rescue, Washington Co. Sheriff's Office, Weiser Rural Fire, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Sand Hollow Fire Department, Oregon State Police, Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and Baker County Sheriff's Office have been participating in the search on the ground, on the water and with drones in the air. 

Friday morning, Johnston said, Payette County provided additional resources and assistance. 

People wanting to volunteer for the search have reached out.

"We haven't turned anyone away," Johnston said, adding that prospective volunteers are being screened.

Johnston also said because of poor visibility and lots of debris in the water, the search has been a difficult one.

Still, Johnston said, "we want to get some closure for the family."

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