Teenage boys missing: Dive team recovers two bodies from lake

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Two teenage boys went missing at Quemado Lake on Sunday evening, State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said Tuesday afternoon in a statement. Noah Hooper, 15, of Longmont, Colorado and Seth Stephenson, 16, of Chaparrel went missing around 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, while visiting the lake with a group of campers and staff from the Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch.

Photo by Susann Mikkelson/El Defensor Chieftain: New Mexico State Police officers greet their dive team as they return from a trip around Quemado, Lake on Tuesday afternoon during their search for two lost teenagers who disappeared Sunday evening.

A body was recovered from the west end of Quemado Lake at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday. Approximately 15 minutes later, another body was recovered in the same area of the lake.

The bodies have not been positively identified. However, the Quemado Lake recreation area, which had been temporarily closed due to the search, has been re-opened.

Stephenson’s mother, Muffie Stephenson, works for the youth ranch, and her son was with her for the camp as a guest and volunteer. Hooper had come down from Colorado the week before, to visit Stephenson, Dean Lang, founder of Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch told the Chieftain.

“They (the campers and guests) were fishing and playing in the water, which was about knee-deep,” Lang said. “I don’t know why, but these boys went to the other side (of the lake), and we haven’t seen them since.”

Lang said search and rescue crews were doing all they can to find the boys, employing the latest sonar and GPS technology in their air and water searches.

Quemado Lake and the surrounding recreation areas, including the shoreline and the dam had been temporarily closed as of Tuesday evening. The entire recreation area, including the lake, Juniper Campground, Cove Day Use area, and the boat dock as well as all trails within the vicinity of the lake and the lands along the lake, are now re-opened for the holiday.

As of Wednesday morning, there was little evidence to suggest where best to search for the boys. Search and Rescue teams, a dive team, and air patrol had all been employed to find the missing teens.

“We (were) focused on all areas for the search,” Gutierrez said on Wednesday morning. “There (was) no one priority area.”

Officials said they got mixed reports of the boys’ last-known whereabouts, and that the boys could be anywhere. The dive team had made numerous trips out onto the lake, and searched various sections.

“It’s a big lake,” Gutierrez said.

It took the team over two and a half days to find the bodies. The search had been suspended at least twice due to changes in the weather and unsafe conditions for the dive team.

For updated recreation information, please contact the Quemado Ranger District at 575-773-4678; office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.