A body has been located near the Stanislaus River and is believed it could be that of a missing Lodi swimmer who disappeared April 22 under the Highway 99 bridge.
Ripon Police Chief Ed Ormonde confirmed the discovery Thursday.
The family of Juan Carlos Acatitlan said he went for a swim with a friend and never came out. He was 21 years old, married and a father having come from Mexico only seven months ago – working in vineyards cutting the dead wood and tying the new shoots.
The water was cold at the time and the current was swift with the greater danger of submerged tree limbs that first responders say snag swimmers’ bodies
The Stanislaus River has gotten even more dangerous. It’s due to the annual spring pulse flows designed to help juvenile salmon on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Releases have doubled to 3,000 cubic feet — the equivalent of 3,000 basketballs filled with water passing a set point in a second — from the New Melones Reservoir.
The runoff from the spring snowmelt the water is cold as well as swift. That means the human body is more susceptible to shutting down in the water that is now fluctuating between 55 and 57 degrees as it passes through Ripon in addition to the strong currents being a challenge even for strong and experienced swimmers.
At the same time the cold, fast river and its currents mean inexperienced rafters often get pushed further into brushy riverbanks, which creates hazardous conditions most people are not accustomed to.
Ripon Police said the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Boat Search Team had located the body after searching for weeks up and down the river fearing the body had been snagged by underwater tree limbs. The family had gathered at the river’s edge for several days hoping he would be found by authorities in their searches.
Fearing the worst, his family set up a vigil in their Lodi living room to mourn his loss – believing he is probably deceased. Acatitlan enjoyed playing basketball and was a fan of the Golden State Warriors. He had told family members that he wanted a Stephen Curry jersey and they have gotten one after he continued to be missing and are displaying it in their home vigil.
His brother Alfredo Acatitlan who had walked the shoreline for days said his brother came to the U.S. for the American dream but it was taken away from him in an instant when he got into the Stanislaus River in Ripon.
A trust fund has been created for Juan’s family with the Wells Fargo Bank under the name of Jose Alfredo Acatitlan and the family is humbly asking for donations to the account number 1671997920.