State Police confirm bodies recovered from lake are missing teens
The two bodies recovered on Wednesday afternoon from Quemado Lake have been identified as 16-year-old Seth Stephenson of Chaparral and 15-year-old Noah Hooper of Longmont, Colo., as of 3 p.m. Friday according to a New Mexiso Department of Public Safety spokesperson.
The two teens went missing from their group on June 30, after being seen “island-hopping” by other members of their party from the Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch, there for a day-long outing.
It has been assumed by many over the past two days that the bodies were those of Stephenson and Hooper, largely due to the fact that search and rescue teams were called off and Quemado Lake and the state park surrounding the area, which had been closed on Tuesday evening, were re-opened to the public. However, due to the holiday, positive identification of the bodies was not confirmed by the Office of Medical Investigations until Friday.
Stephenson and Hooper, friends who were both volunteers and guests helping at the Ranch this summer, were first discovered to be missing at around 5 p.m. on June 30 when the summer camp staff and campers were gathering to leave the Quemado Lake recreation area. Campers had been fishing, swimming and generally playing in the shallow area of the lake that afternoon.
“(State Police) Dispatch received a call from the (Catron County) Sheriff’s office at 18:55 (6:55 p.m.) that two boys were missing,” state police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said. Gutierrez is the public information officer for the case.
State police officer Jim Forgue was dispatched to Quemado Lake at 7:41 p.m., and arrived at 8:36 p.m. on Sunday. United States Forest Service officials, along with Ranch staff and others were present and unofficially searching for the teens at that time. Search and rescue teams from across the state and the state police dive team were called in at 9 p.m. June 30. The air patrol was called in later, and patrolled by air much of the day Monday, as well as Wednesday until about 1 p.m., when the first body was found in the water.
According to State Police Sgt. Jeffe Burke, who was on scene during most of the incident, there were multiple agencies involved in the effort, including the Catron County Sheriff’s Office, the State Police Search and Rescue, the State Police Dive Team, the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue, the Mesilla Valley Search K9 Unit, the Sandia Search K9 Unit, Reserve and Quemado Volunteer Fire/EMS personnel, the United States Forest Service, the US Border Patrol Search Team, and a private citizen who loaned the dive team the use of his boat.
A counselor from the youth camp along with family members of the two missing victims were also on scene the entire time. They were camped at the lake since the boys had gone missing. Local Resident Shannon Zetich provided food for the rescue teams while they were searching.
The first body was recovered at just after 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, July 3. The second body was found at approximately 3 p.m. in the same area. The teens’ bodies were discovered on the Southeast side of the lake in the main channel directly across the lake from the campground on Quemado Road, in about 14 feet of water, and covered in silt and mud.
“Positive ID took some time, due to the length of time the bodies were in the water,” Gutierrez said. “A lot can happen to a body in water in the length of time they were missing.”
Family members have asked for respect and privacy during this time. Craig Lang, director of Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch, said during a brief conversation that the families are in mourning, but are discussing a possible statement to release to the media.