The body of a Richland construction worker was found Thursday afternoon, nearly four days after he was thrown into the Columbia River during a near-miss boating accident.
Brandon Martin’s body floated to the surface near the blue bridge just after noon.
Family members standing along the Kennewick shoreline in Columbia Park had been looking through binoculars when Martin’s father saw the body, said local diver Mark Allen.
Martin’s mother immediately called Allen, who had just finished searching that area and was moving down river.
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Allen, who had friends in another boat, recovered the body at 12:15 p.m. and notified the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to respond with its own boat.
Allen, owner of Allen Water Rescue Services and a former member of Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, had been asked by Martin’s loved ones to help in the underwater search. He said he volunteered his time and had done eight dives with underwater cameras and sonar equipment since Sunday night.
“It’s all about the community and finding closure for the family,” Allen said. “To me that’s what it’s about, finding the loved one so the family can rest now that they have him.”
Allen added that in the 37 years he’s been doing water recovery, he’s never had a person actually see a body float up to the surface.
Martin, 34, was thrown from a boat around 8 p.m. Sunday when it swerved to avoid another friend’s ski boat. Friends reported that the boat Martin was on hit some debris.
He landed in the water west of the blue bridge, along with another man in his 30s and a 10-year-old boy, according to a man from the second boat.
None were wearing life jackets. They were returning from a day on the water when the boats came too close together.
A friend previously told the Herald that some people in the group had a couple of beers that day, but no one was heavily intoxicated. However, investigators have said alcohol may have been a factor.
Columbia Basin Dive Rescue called off the search Monday night, noting that the volunteer dive team had been dealing with poor water visibility.
On Thursday, the water temperature was 68-69 degrees, with visibility about eight feet, said Allen, who started his daily search at 6:30 a.m.
The water was smooth like a sheet of ice, Allen said, so family members were able to spot any bumps in the water between Wade and Clover islands and direct the diver to the location so he could investigate.
Allen said he spent quite a bit of time diving around the “hotspot” — where Martin was last seen near the bridge — but he may have missed him because there were a number of huge boulders in the area.
Candice Hermanson, Franklin County’s chief deputy coroner, said an autopsy is scheduled Friday.
“Our heart goes out to the family. We’ll be in contact with them as soon as the procedure is done,” she said.