Lost after boating accident
More than two months after a tragic boating accident claimed the lives of a father and son on Lake Billy Chinook, searchers recovered the body of Eugene "Gene" Harris, 73, on Friday.
The accident occurred Sept. 6, when Harris and his son, Mark Harris, 37, took a break from farming to go boating and waterskiing on the slalom course north of the first bridge at the lake.
Following some sort of accident, Sheriff Jim Adkins said, Mark Harris was injured and went into the water, and a motorist observed Gene Harris entering the water to rescue his son. Mark Harris' body was recovered that day, but searchers had failed to locate Gene Harris until Nov. 16.
Adkins said that a sonar search team, including Gene and Sandy Ralston, from Ralston & Associates, of Kuna, Idaho, arrived in Madras on Nov. 15, in a motor home, towing a special, stainless steel boat equipped with side-scan sonar equipment, and a remote-operated vehicle.
The Ralstons, who trained the team from Klamath Falls that searched for Harris in September, have used their sonar equipment to recover at least 75 bodies over the past decade.
"They arrived here on Thursday, and were in the water and had a possible location on Thursday," said Adkins. "They marked it and decided to wait until Friday to narrow the location down better and try to retrieve the body."
Once they located Harris' body with the sonar, Adkins said that they used the remote-operated vehicle -- a robot with "some kind of arm on it" -- for recovery. His body was located at a depth of 115 feet.
After the body was recovered, Adkins contacted the family. "I didn't want to get their hopes built up," he said. "Just in case we failed, we didn't want to reopen that wound."
The search team donated their time and the use of their equipment. "The only thing they wanted the Sheriff's Office to cover was fuel and lodging," he said.
Adkins said the Harris family was relieved to learn of the successful search. "It gives the family closure."