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Family calls on American sonar experts for missing kayaker search in B.C. lake

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The grief-stricken family of a kayaker who went missing on Kalamalka Lake near Vernon, B.C., and is now presumed drowned, is desperately seeking closure and have cast their gaze south of the border to meet that aim.

It’s been a week and a half since Eli Buruca, 26, went missing while kayaking during a sudden storm. He’d been paddling with a group of friends and while they all made it back, he did not.

RCMP and search and rescue crews have yet to locate his body.

“We would like to find him and put him to rest, and as soon as possible, and start working on how we can heal from this — but also, you know, maintain his memory,” said Nidia Buruca Majano, Eli Buruca’s sister.

She and other members of the young man’s family arrived from Calgary soon after he went missing and have been looking for him since.

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“We cannot sit and just nothing. So my family and I have been out every single day, morning, night looking for him with a drone or getting on a boat,” she said.

Vernon Search and Rescue had been scouring the lake, but RCMP stood the group down when the search remained fruitless.

The family is now pinning their hopes on Gene and Sandy Ralston, an American couple who specializes in recovering drowned victims using side-scan sonar equipment.

They are expected to arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday.

“They’ll be coming to help us. They’ll be using a specialized towed sonar device which will help cover a larger area and hopefully find him,” she said.

The Ralstons have taken part in recovery missions in Okanagan Lake before, including one in 2013 and another in 2021.

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Their time, however, is volunteered, so money is being raised to cover their basic costs. 


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The fundraiser will also be used to assist the family in taking Burica back to El Salvador to be buried alongside his brother.

In the meantime, Majano has a request for those who are out and about this weekend.

“If there’s anyone who has some time (and) happens to be out on the lake, if you’re walking on the trail on either side, if you’re kayaking or if you’re on a boat, if you could just keep your eyes open in case he has come up,” she said.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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