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Officials find missing man's body in canal

May 21, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Curtis LeClair was reported missing more than a week ago.

Officials have recovered the body of Curtis LeClair, 62, of Ethete, who was reported missing more than a week ago from the area of 532 Diversion Dam Road.

The body was discovered at about 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Wyoming Canal system about 400 yards from the inlet of Pilot Butte Reservoir. Reportedly, he had surfaced and was spotted by a Tribal Game and Fish warden who was patrolling the area attempting to locate LeClair.

"He was assisting with the scaled-down search, and he found the body in the waterway," Undersheriff Ryan Lee said Tuesday. "He was able to alert us, and we responded appropriately."

Coroner Ed McAuslan said it's common for a body in water to stay submerged for several days before appearing at the surface.

"It will stay on the surface for a period time, and then due to natural processes it will sink again, and then it will not come back up," McAuslan said.

He commended area search crews and volunteers for their work recovering LeClair's body.

"There was a lot of effort put into this," McAuslan said, adding that LeClair's family members also aided in the search. "It's thanks to the efforts of everyone involved he was found."

Cause of death to come

Sheriff's Lt. Bill Braddock said last week that officials don't suspect foul play in connection with LeClair's disappearance. However, Lee said the open investigation will continue until more is known about the official cause of LeClair's death.

The body underwent an autopsy on Tuesday, but McAuslan did not want to release results until LeClair's family members had been notified.

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker said last week that he doesn't know whether LeClair actually fell into the canal, but "strong indications" have led investigators to that conclusion. McAuslan said his staff reported that LeClair appeared to have been in the water for some time when he was recovered.

The search

The search for LeClair was initiated after he was reported missing May 11. According to the report, LeClair had been gone since about 2:30 a.m. the previous day, when he left the area of 532 Diversion Dam Road on foot.

Crews spent several days

focusing on nine miles of the Wyoming Canal between Diversion Dam and Pilot Butte Reservoir. On Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation lowered water levels in the canal for two hours in an effort to decrease flows and possibly create a surge to loosen any trapped remains. By Thursday, crews were using a 21-foot boat equipped with a side-scan sonar unit to search the inlet flow area of Pilot Butte Reservoir for signs of LeClair. Hornecker said the same boat was later placed in the Wyoming Canal, where it was used to scour the canal floor, sides, siphons and outlets looking for any evidence of LeClair's possible drowning.

Hornecker enlisted the public's help Friday, asking canal users to thoroughly examine any catch grates, siphons or obstructions daily for evidence that might lead to locating LeClair. The official search was scaled down Friday, but Hornecker said crews planned to continue combing the canal's ditch banks, flying aircraft over the area on occasion and conducting small search and rescue exercises over the canal.

On Monday, Hornecker said full-scale search operations had been suspended with the exception of aerial reconnaissance missions being conducted throughout the day. He said volunteers also searched the Wyoming Canal from Pilot Butte Reservoir to the town of Pavillion using sonar.

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