Search and rescue teams are working to retrieve a body believed to be that of a 16-year-old boy who went missing while swimming in the Chehalis River just south of Rochester Tuesday.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Greg Elwin tells The Chronicle the body is almost certainly Chris Puentes Garay.

The body was discovered underwater about 50 feet from where he was last seen swimming with friends, Elwin said.

Hours earlier, Elwin said the search for Garay had become a recovery mission.

Elwin said “survivability overnight is very low.”

Search and rescue teams from around the region were back on the Chehalis River this morning in search of Garay, who went missing on the river south of Rochester while swimming with friends late Tuesday afternoon.

Lanette Dyer, the EMS Director for the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority, said rescue crews from Pierce County, Lacey and Tumwater have joined other Thurston County personal Wednesday morning.

Rescue teams began to search the river Tuesday evening.

Emergency personnel responded to the 911 call at about 5 p.m. on Independence Road south of Rochester.

The teenager was swimming with a group of friends, all Rochester High School students, across the river when he began bobbing up and down, Dyer said. His brother, 14, who was swimming near him, noticed his brother having trouble swimming and alerted the other two young women who were there with them to call for help.

The young man then disappeared under the water, Dyer said.

More than 30 emergency personnel from several different agencies were on the scene conducting shore- and water-based operations downstream from where the young man disappeared as the sun began to set Tuesday evening. A rescue boat circled the river and multiple divers searched the water along the shore.

The mother stood on the side of the river shouting her son’s name.

This time of year is especially dangerous for swimmers because the river appears to be slow-moving but because of the spring waters the currents are much stronger than they look, she said.

“We’d like people to remember with this spring water, things can be very deceiving,” she said.

Chaplain Thom Jenrette of the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority said there hasn’t been a drowning in that area for several years.

Garay is the third person to go missing on the Chehalis River in the past month.

An 8-year-old boy drowned in the river by the 100 block of Ceres Hill Road last week. He was last seen swinging on the back deck at his house.

The body of 24-year-old Olympia man Daniel Kuhn was found on April 19 in the Chehalis River near Doty after he went missing five days earlier during the Pe Ell River Run.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.