Family enlists nonprofit group in search for missing boater


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Shared with permission of Todays News-Herald


A Visalia, California, woman remains missing after more than a month of efforts by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. Her family has obtained the help of a private search and rescue organization in the hope of recovering her remains.

Raegan Heitzig, 26, has been missing since a fatal Sept. 1 boating accident. The head-on collision left nine injured survivors and three deceased, who were located within a week of the crash. Heitzig remains the sole missing victim, and is presumed dead. Now representatives from Wisconsin-based search and rescue organization Bruce’s Legacy will join officials’ search.

The search has been daunting for Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue volunteers. Their efforts have been limited to more than a dozen miles of the Colorado River, above and below the surface, between the areas of Topock Marsh and Upper Lake Havasu. Sheriff’s officials have said in previous interviews that their search could take them well into Lake Havasu itself, if Heitzig is not found.

Bruce’s Legacy is a non-profit, independent search and rescue organization, named for Wisconsin firefighter Bruce Cormican, who died in a search and rescue operation more than 20 years ago. The organization is led by Cormican’s brother, Keith Cormican.

Heitzig’s family contacted Cormican last month to request his assistance, and according to Cormican, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has offered its cooperation in the search. While Cormican’s organization has never conducted a search on the Colorado River, however, he believes the challenge will be daunting.

“We do searches like this quite often,” Cormican said in a telephone interview with Today’s News-Herald. “The biggest problem is that she went missing in the river … it’s the worst body of water to conduct searches in. She could have been carried by the current. The likelihood she was hung up on a brush pile or tree is pretty high.”

Cormican will drive from Wisconson to Havasu Thursday morning, he said, bringing with him one other volunteer and a 22-foot boat, equipped with a towable sonar array and a remote-operated vehicle to search underwater locations as he seeks Heitzig’s remains.