Crews Continue Search for Missing Swimmer in Lake Camanche

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AMADOR COUNTY -- Amador County sheriff's search teams are still looking for the body of a Lodi man at Lake Camanche. Valentine Valencia Ortiz, 24, is presumed drowned after he disappeared in the water on Tuesday.

Divers are searching an area off the day-use area near the North Shore Marina. That's where Ortiz was last seen in the water by a female friend about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Over the past two days a helicopter, infrared drone and site scan sonar searchers were used without success. Family and acquaintances stood by in the day-use area, which is now off limits to everyone else.

The landscape workers here says people overlook the danger in a calm lake that has no fast currents.

"They just want to come and swim and relax on a hot day…they’re not really aware of anything," said landscape worker Ishmael Orihuela.

But they should be. There have been three deaths here over the past several weeks -- two drownings and one fatal personal watercraft accident.

Ortiz's friend said they were about 100 yards from shore and he was not a strong swimmer. Water depths here can go from 5 feet to 60 feet quickly.

“There’s drop off ledges below the surface of the water that can get people into trouble really fast," said Mark Bolton, supervising ranger with East Bay Municipal Utility District.

And Ortiz was reportedly drinking and was not wearing a flotation device.

“When there’s alcohol involved water is not good, if you’re drinking, don’t get in the water," said landscaper Colton Taylor.

The underwater visibility at Lake Camanche is actually pretty good, but that’s no guarantee that the search will end soon.

Visibility is drastically reduced in deeper water. It didn’t help that Ortiz was in the water way after sundown. With no reference point, it’s hard to tell exactly where he was when he disappeared or where his body is likely to be.

"Oftentimes people get brave when they’ve had a little alcohol and do things they probably shouldn’t undertake at times here at Camanche," Bolton said.

Deputies say it will be a day-to-day decision on when to end their search if Ortiz's body is not found.

As of Friday, teams exhausted the area where he was last seen and also tried areas that were some distance away using three different dogs. Depending on how much area is covered, it is expected they will continue their efforts into the night. The hot weather may hold off the search until the weekend passes.