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Water rescue training planned near site of fatal boat crash

January 22, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office will conduct swift-water rescue training Tuesday on the Colorado River. Focus will be in and near Topock Marina and Pirate’s Cove, the MCSO reported Monday.

The area is where a boat collision in September resulted in the deaths of four people. Christine Lewis, 51, of Visalia, California; Brian Grabowski, 50, of Tulare, California; and Kirra Drury, 24, of Ventura, California, were found soon after the accident. A fourth victim, Raegan Heitzig, 26, has not been recovered.

Two boats containing a total of 16 people collided head-on the evening of Sept. 1. No one on either boat was wearing a life jacket, according to MCSO.

MCSO personnel continue looking for Heitzig, though efforts aren’t as intense as they were in the fall.

A nonprofit group, Bruce’s Legacy, was hired by Heitzig’s family to help with the search but wasn’t able to find her.

The site can be a challenge for rescues and searches.

“This river area is very large and has an extreme current, making a huge amount of possible results for Raegan’s location,” said Keith Cormican, founder of Bruce’s Legacy, after the group ran out of resources and decided to stop.

The MCSO provided the security boats, divers, facilities and docks to people with Bruce’s Legacy, which specializes in side-scan sonar waterway searches, said Sgt. Kyler Cox, MCSO Division of Boating Safety’s volunteer services coordinator. Cox has been recognized for water rescues, including for his part in a 2016 rescue of a toddler from Lake Havasu when a boat capsized.

“These results could take months to cover with still no result,” Cox said back in October.

He also said water can be extremely unpredictable — especially with river currents — because the search area can change from one day to the next.

A Gofundme.com page has raised more than $65,000 for the Heitzig family.

“The family is interested in hiring someone else but aren’t sure where to turn,” wrote Kelsey Low, who is managing the GoFundMe page. She has updated the page 20 times since it went up a couple of days after the crash. “In this moment, the request we have is for everyone to keep praying.”

This training session Tuesday will include mock water rescues using an L.A. County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.

The MCSO asks people to be cautious as they travel through the area because law enforcement presence will be heavy on river.

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