Jun 10, 2015

Billings man presumed to have drowned in Buffalo Bill Reservoir as crews keep searching

Searchers are continuing to look for the body of an 80-year-old Billings man presumed to have drowned in the Buffalo Bill Reservoir Monday afternoon.

Merle Henry Daly formerly of Cody is believed to have died while trying to swim after his drifting boat.

Search and rescue personnel continued searching for Daly's body on Tuesday. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
The Park County Sheriff's Office said Daly had been out recreating with a friend at the time of the accident. He and 77-year-old Kay Becker of Billings had reportedly put in at the Buffalo Bill State Park's boat ramp and traveled across the reservoir to a kind of island near the southern shore.

The sheriff's office said in a Tuesday news release that, according to Becker, the boat somehow got loose and began drifting away while Daly and Becker were resting on the island,

Daly, without a flotation device, tried swimming to the boat. However, about 50 feet away from the shore, he called out and then disappeared beneath the water, Becker told authorities.

The accident occurred sometime around 4:30 p.m., but with Becker stranded on the island, she wasn't able to call emergency responders for two hours, the news release said. That's when Becker was able to flag down a passing boat for help.

Personnel from the sheriff's office, Buffalo Bill State Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department responded and the Park County Search and Rescue Unit immediately began a search for Daly.

Searchers (bottom left) looked over the area on Tuesday. For perspective, the boat ramp is located on the opposite shore in this photograph, almost directly above the boat. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker

Searchers found the boat and a life jacket that Becker had tried to throw to Daly, but they didn't find his body before nightfall and wind forced them to pause the search Monday night.

Search and rescue personnel continued combing the reservoir on Tuesday, deploying canines in the vicinity where Daly was last seen, but they again came up empty.

"Personnel from the Sublette County Sheriff's Office will join the search (Wednesday) using sophisticated side-scanning sonar equipment," the Park County Sheriff's Office said in a posting on its Facebook page.

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