Man found dead in irrigation ditch amid flooding

Feb 22, 2017 By Andrea Novotny, Staff Writer

A 33-year-old Lander man was found dead Tuesday night in an irrigation lateral flowing with a large volume of water along Honor Farm Road in Riverton, shortly after search and rescue efforts began.

Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said the presumed cause of death is drowning, but the case remains under investigation.

"We are doing an autopsy tomorrow, which we do in most cases like this just to make sure that we rule out any other possibilities, but at this point there is no reason to suspect anything else," he said Wednesday.

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office received the initial call reporting the man missing at about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday from a residence in the 100 block of Honor Farm Road.

Deputies interviewed the reporting party and learned that the man had been visiting her residence that evening. She reported last seeing the man outside near the water's edge. She told officers that she returned inside then heard some type of commotion outside. She and others began to look for the man but were unable to locate him and soon contacted authorities.

"A deputy located the man's body about 1.5 miles downstream from the residence. He was partially submerged and hung up in debris," Undersheriff Ryan Lee said.

The Riverton Volunteer Fire Department water rescue team had been summoned to the area and was able to recover the body without incident within about 30 minutes.

Lee said water in the drainage ditch along Honor Farm Road began to rise above its banks mid-afternoon Tuesday.

"It was kind of an anomaly - I don't think anybody had ever seen that specific lateral with that much water," he said.

By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the water had washed over two culverts and a private bridge in the area.

The washouts caused flooding over roadways which made it impossible to either gain access to the subdivision or leave the subdivision areas, Lee said. He said the high rushing water in many areas east of Riverton prompted the Sheriff's office to activate the Emergency Alert System around 5 p.m. Tuesday in order to notify citizens of the conditions and dangers.

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