UPDATE: Body of missing Portage boy still not found in Silver Lake
Silver Lake Beach remains closed as the search continues for a 13-year-old Portage boy who disappeared in the water there late Sunday afternoon.
Portage police met with the boy’s family Monday afternoon and began making plans for a prolonged search with a specially trained search dog and may involve dredging areas of the lake as a last resort.
A Portage police officer driving along Silver Lake Drive on Sunday afternoon was flagged down around 6 p.m. by a woman who was unable to find her nephew. He had been at the beach with relatives on a hot, crowded afternoon.
The Columbia County Dive Team arrived at the scene, searching the area where the boy was last seen on a flotation device outside the swimming area marked by buoys, according to witnesses. Portage police were told that the boy couldn’t swim; they were also told that he could, but was not a strong swimmer.
Authorities suspended their search after several hours on Sunday as a thunderstorm moved through the area.
The search resumed Monday morning with four boats eventually on the water belonging to the Department of Natural Resources, Portage Fire Department, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Sauk County Sheriff’s Office. A fifth boat was on standby on shore.
Portage Police Detective Lt. Daniel Garrigan said two of the boats were outfitted with sonar. They traversed the water near where the boy was thought to have gone under.
Portage Police Department Administrative Lt. Keith Klafke said Monday around 1 p.m. that the search team was confident where they may find the boy, triangulating the descriptions of two witnesses who had been at different parts of the shore.
Garrigan said the Silver Lake depth near the shore ranges from 5 to 15 feet before reaching a ledge of weeds, where it drops off to 20 to 30 feet. At the middle of the lake, the depth is about 80 feet.
“The divers have been struggling on and off with that ledge. The weeds are that thick,” Garrigan said.
As the afternoon wore on, boats docked, with officers surveying monitors as a drone flew over the scene, and the DNR’s underwater drone surveyed the bottom of the lake.
“The visibility is good,” Garrigan said, “but as they go further, they just get encased in weeds, so that’s why they are using that submersible now.”
Officials met with the boy’s family, Portage Mayor Rick Dodd and City Administrator Shawn Murphy on Monday to discuss the next steps in the search.
“It’s a tough deal. They’re invested and they’re really right up there,” Garrigan said of the family, who waited at the scene for a second day.
“They have been very understanding,” Klafke said. “I couldn’t imagine if it were my own kid out there — the frustration and the waiting.”
Rumors have made the wait more difficult.
“They are extremely frustrated with social media and inaccurate information,” said Portage Patrol Lt. Richard Hoege. “Last night, there were a number of reports that he had been found, which were inaccurate. So the family is going through enough as it is.”
Klafke said the Sauk County Dive Team was planning to return one last time Tuesday morning.
“Our own, Columbia County, is a little depleted at the moment,” Klafke said.
Silver Lake Beach remains closed until further notice.
There was a lifeguard on duty, but those outside the area marked by buoys swim at their own risk.