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More than 100 Saul Gallegos Ruiz family members and friends were present at the Milwaukie boat ramp during recovery operation

COURTESY PHOTO: CCSO - Members of the county's Marine Unit on April 27 recover the body of a missing kayaker on the Willamette River.With significant help from a private underwater search specialist, Clackamas County Marine Unit recovered the body of a missing kayaker on the Willamette River Monday, April 27, the sheriff's office reported.

Gene and Sandy Ralston, who are in their 70s, are among North America's leading experts at searching for drowning victims. The Idaho couple came at the request of Gallegos Ruiz's family to assist with the search effort using a boat outfitted with nearly $300,000 worth of specialized equipment to aid in the search for bodies underwater.

Authorities said they recovered the body of 27-year-old Saul Gallegos Ruiz of Happy Valley. He was last seen in the water near Elk Rock Island on Thursday, April 16. A medical examiner was called out to the Jefferson Street Boat Ramp.

Witnesses called 911 around 4:30 p.m. April 16 to report that a man had fallen in the water after his kayak flipped near Elk Rock. He was not wearing a life jacket. Deputies said several people went out to help the man but he disappeared beneath the surface before they could reach him.

A few days later, the sheriff's office identified the missing kayaker as Ruiz. Crews searched the river up until Monday, April 20, but on the 21st reported that after not finding Ruiz, the Marine Unit would continue to use side-scan during its patrols, and planned to request divers to follow up on any leads generated during patrols.

The sheriff's office said that changing tides, currents, the large search area and other hazards made the search difficult.

Soon after arriving in Milwaukie, the Ralstons located their first images of Gallegos Ruiz's body. Additional imaging angles were required to confirm the body's position, which took a few more hours.

The decision was made to send divers into the water at about 7 p.m. Monday, April 27, to attempt recovery of the body at a depth of about 75 feet. Water currents added to the difficulty of the recovery, as did lighting conditions on the surface as the sun went down.

More than 100 Gallegos Ruiz family members and friends were present at the Milwaukie boat ramp during the recovery operation.

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