BACA COUNTY, Colo. — Divers recovered a body from deep in a pond behind the dam at the Two Buttes Reservoir State Wildlife Area late Thursday night, ending a four-day search for a missing camper, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The agency began a search and rescue operation on Monday at the wildlife area which is located about 40 miles south of Lamar in southeast Colorado.
Campers reported that a member of their group had gone missing late Sunday night while jumping from cliffs into the Black Hole pond. They were looking for 28-year-old Eben Bartholomew.
About 30 people, including CPW staff, Baca County Sheriff's Office staff and volunteer firefighters, searched land and water for him on Monday, CPW said.
Bartholomew's SUV and personal items were found at the scene, according to CPW.
The search broadened Tuesday as four drones, including one with a thermal camera, were launched and flew over the area while volunteers searched on foot. And CPW's expert Marine Evidence Recovery Team (MERT) drove down from Littleton to take over the water search with its boat and submersible drone equipped with sonar, lights and a video camera.
The MERT team continued its painstaking grid search of the Black Hole on Wednesday and Thursday. They were joined by the Pueblo County Sheriff’s volunteer dive team, which probed the murky depths of the pond, where visibility was extremely low.
Finally, late Thursday night, CPW’s MERT team found the body and completed the recovery with its submersible drone.
“This is a tragedy and we offer our condolences to the family and friends of the victim,” said Todd Marriott, CPW Area Wildlife Manager for the Lamar region. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to be injured jumping from the cliffs into the Black Hole. And it’s another sad example why we urge everyone to wear life jackets when in or near the water.”
The Baca County Coroner’s Office was notified and took control of the body at the scene and county officials began an investigation. The coroner will determine a cause of death and make formal identification of the victim.
Two Buttes State Wildlife Area covers more than 8,500 acres and is located about 40 miles south of Lamar in southeast Colorado.
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