Just after noon Thursday, the family of a Finley teen presumed drowned at Hood Park near Burbank held out hope that the boy's body had been found.
But about 90 minutes after operators of a boat with a special side-scan sonar device thought they had found Timmy Bowden in the Snake River, volunteer divers discovered the image seen on the sonar equipment was a log.
"It was actually a 5-foot log, about the same circumference" of the14-year-old, said Walla Walla County Sheriff John Turner, adding that Timmy is about 5-foot-2.
Josie Robertson, Timmy's cousin, had been at the park with her family all morning, watching the Ralston & Associates boat from Idaho search the river.
Josie, a 17-year-old soon-to-be senior at River View High in Finley, said her cousin was more like a brother to her and they were looking forward to both being at the high school this fall. Timmy was going to be a freshman there.
"Being out here right now is like being in limbo," she told the Herald. "There's a little light that has hope that he may still be alive."
Timmy was last seen late Saturday after the boat he was in sank near the Hood Park boat launch. Timmy was with his father, his sister's boyfriend and two family friends.
The 16-foot johnboat reportedly began sinking after they pulled away from the dock. No one was wearing a life jacket. The other four people in the boat made it to shore.
"I wish I could be there to hold his hand," Josie said as she waited for news from divers. "I can't imagine how he was feeling in that cold water, reaching out his hand for help."
Timmy was athletic and strong, she said. He was a good swimmer -- they swam together often in her pool -- but Josie said she also knows cold river water can affect someone in the water very quickly.
Josie said she's been reading about drowning online because she wanted to find out as much information as she could about what her cousin went through.
Josie was on a family vacation in Utah, but they cut the trip short and returned home after hearing about what happened.
They were at Hood Park all day Wednesday and were there Thursday when the sonar equipment found a possible location.
Divers were called at 12:15 p.m. for the possible recovery.
"It's making my heart beat a little," Josie said. "It's that closure that he's really gone -- it's not what we want, but it's what we need."
Timmy's aunt, Cindy Edden, went out on the sonar boat with the operator around 1 p.m. when Columbia Basin Dive Rescue members got on scene.
Two boats with Walla Walla County sheriff's deputies and state Fish & Wildlife officers, and two dive rescue boats also circled the area where a blue buoy apparently marked the spot of the possible body.
By 1:45 p.m., a diver had searched all around the area and indicated Timmy wasn't there.
"It is disappointing," Sheriff Turner said. "The family's here, and they saw there's perhaps some hope of it being their loved one and it's not, so I'm sure it's a let down to them, as it is to us too."
Divers got off the water after that, but the sonar boat resumed searching.
Turner said the sonar boat should be available through the weekend, and the sheriff's office will have its search and rescue team out this weekend for a surface search.
"We'll continue to search for as long as our assets remain," Turner said. "We're determined to do the best that we can."
The special boat from Idaho pulls a torpedo behind it in the water that shoots a sonar pulse down to the bottom of the river, Turner said.
The reflected acoustic returns are processed into an image similar to an aerial photograph, which is viewed real-time on a computer monitor in the boat, according to the company's website.
Typically, the side-scan sonar searches a swath 60 to 160 feet wide at about 2 miles per hour, although other ranges can be used depending on the size of the object being sought.
The Ralston & Associates boat was on the Snake River for most of the afternoon Wednesday searching for Timmy before Turner asked it to help at Casey Pond. A 13-year-old Pasco boy drowned just after 6 p.m. Wednesday at the pond, which is southeast of Burbank off Highway 12 in the McNary National Wildlife Refuge.
Christian Espinoza had been with his family at the popular fishing pond and was playing in the shallow water near the shoreline when he slipped and fell in.
Christian, who was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and tennis shoes, did not know how to swim.
About 21/2 hours after Christian went underwater, the side-scan sonar device located his body. Divers recovered him and brought him to shore.
"Personally, they're a tragedy," Turner said of the two recent accidents near Burbank. "Personally, they take a toll on you. I fully realize just how tragic these two events are. I can't even begin to imagine how much the families are hurting. Our hearts and our prayers go out to them."
A hand-written note has been posted near the boat dock by Timmy's family asking for people on the water to keep an eye out for the teen described as being "really, really sweet," "mature beyond his years" and "funny."
Timmy didn't necessarily make jokes all the time, but he always seemed to be able to say the right thing at the right time that would crack everyone up, Josie said.
"He had the cutest freckles -- you just wanted to pinch his cheeks," she said. "There are no words to describe the kind of person he is."
Josie said she got extremely close to Timmy during the past couple months as they worked out together. Timmy was athletic and just took up golfing with his father and brothers.
Josie said Timmy was set to play on River View High's junior varsity basketball team "only because he was short." She also plays basketball at the high school and said she plans to get a shooting sleeve with his name and number on it and wear it all season.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org