Retired couple and divers recover drowning victim's body from Lost Creek Lake

Initially responding on June 9 to reports of two drowning victims at the lake, searchers were only able to find the body of one man.

Posted: Aug 22, 2019 1:56 PM
Updated: Aug 22, 2019 11:45 PM

TRAIL, Ore. — More than two months after two brothers drowned in a boating accident on Lost Creek Lake, deputies have recovered the body of the second man.

Emergency crews first responded on June 9 after a call reporting that two people were drowning in the lake. Deputies found the first man, 25-year-old Irving Fuentes, unresponsive in the water. Though he was rushed to the hospital, Irving was soon pronounced dead.

Despite repeat attempts, search efforts for Irving's brother, Juan, proved fruitless.

"The search for the second drowning victim, Juan Carlos Fuentes, 29, has been ongoing since the incident took place in June," the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) said in a statement. "Police, fire, and search and rescue personnel have worked diligently to recover Fuentes for his family."

Eventually, authorities placed a call to an unlikely source — Gene and Cindy Ralston, a retired couple from Idaho.

"The Ralstons are experts in Side Scan Sonar and spend their retirement working to help families and searchers in situations like the one at Lost Creek Lake," JCSO said.

Juan Fuentes wasn't the drowning victim the Ralston's have been called to recover. The retired couple have been bringing victims back to their families since the early 80s. With their current sonar equipment, the duo and a friend have recovered about 120 people from bodies of water across the country since 2000, including one of the body of one of the boys that died in the July 4th, 2016 plane crash in Brookings. They also helped with the Laci Peterson case.

"What we do gives us a good feeling," said Gene Ralston. "To walk up the dock and give mom and dad or wife a hug and tell them 'We brought your loved one home,' there's no feelings like it in the world. We've shed tears along with families many, many times."

Sgt. Shawn Richards with the JCSO gave the couple a call a week into the search.

"They said 'yeah, we'll come but unfortunately we'll have to put you in the order that you called,'" Sgt. Richards recalled. "We were sixth or seventh on the list. I knew they'd come. This week we were able to do that."

"We were told upfront that it was a difficult search because no one else had been able to find him. We've had no misgivings that it was a long shot because of what we had heard but we were willing to do it anyway," Gene Ralston said.

On Tuesday, JCSO said that the Ralstons arrived and began scanning on Lost Creek Lake. They soon located an object "believed to be a body" about 135 feet below the surface.

By Thursday, marine patrol deputies and a rescue dive team began their recovery efforts. They were able to recover the body, later positively identified by the Medical Examiner's Office as Juan Fuentes.

"The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Search and Rescue personnel as well as Gene and Cindy Ralston for their help in allowing the Fuentes family to move forward in their grieving process," JCSO said.

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