Almost four months after Lucian Munguia was reported missing from a Yakima park, the search for the young boy ended near a Parker diversion dam, about 7.5 miles from the place he disappeared.
A resident walking a dog in the area below the Sunnyside Canal Dam near Burke Road spotted what looked like human remains Thursday, Yakima County sheriff's detective Sgt. Jason Pepper said.
Lucian was identified through dental records, and a DNA test is being performed for confirmation, according to Yakima police.
An autopsy determined that Lucian was the victim of an accidental drowning in the river and that there was no evidence of foul play, Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice said Friday.
Lucian, a nonverbal, autistic 4-year-old, was reported missing from Sarg Hubbard Park the evening of Sept. 10, last seen heading across the parking lot toward the Yakima River. After searching for 15 minutes, members of Lucian's family called the YPD for help, triggering a massive search operation centered on the park.
Yakima Deputy Fire Chief D.J. Goldsmith, who participated in the search efforts, said taking months to find Lucian's remains was not unusual given the nature of the river.
"Even though we give 100% effort to locate things, including using infrared drones, there are so many tributaries and multiple places where things can get hung up," Goldsmith said.
The river bottom is also littered with logs and debris that can impede an object's movement or make it difficult to find, Goldsmith said.
Yakima County's Search and Rescue team, along with crews from King and Kittitas counties, local fire departments and the U.S. Air Force scoured the park, the river, nearby L.L. Buchanan Lake and the pond in the park.
Rescuers also employed aerial and submersible drones, as well as kayaks, ATVs, boats, a helicopter and dogs in the search.
An FBI dive team also flew in and did a thorough search of the park's pond and other bodies of water.
While authorities scaled back their search efforts, volunteers and Lucian's family continued efforts to search, as well as keep his case in the public eye.
"We did everything we could, but it was a tragedy that we couldn't do something else," Goldsmith said.