Search continues for drowned student

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Churchill County rescue divers search for the body of Tim Easley on Sunday afternoon.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Churchill County rescue divers search for the body of Tim Easley on Sunday afternoon.

The search for a University of Nevada, Reno student who drowned in the murky cold waters of Lahontan Reservoir near Silver Springs Saturday resumed just after sunrise Sunday.

According to reports from his friends, 21-year-old Tim Easley of Virginia City was aboard a boat with seven others when he reportedly asked the driver to stop so he could take a swim just after 5 p.m. Saturday.

According to their reports to police Saturday night, Easley dove off the boat and was swimming around yelling when all of a sudden his voice became silent in the impending darkness. It was the last time they heard from him.

"At around 50 degrees, the water can be quite a shock to the system," according to Lyon County Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Page, especially when alcoholic beverages are involved, as Easley's friends admitted Saturday.

"If you're gong to be in a boat, you've got to have a life vest on," said Page. "You've got to be prepared. You've got to know that anything can go wrong," he said. "And you can't be drinking."

After sunrise Sunday morning, Lyon County Search and Rescue boats resumed their search for the lost reveler at 6:18 a.m., two of their boats pinging sonar over the location of Easley's last swim.

Inside the generator-powered converted school bus that serves as mobile command center for the Lyon County Sheriff's office, Page plotted Easley's last known coordinates on a Lahontan Reservoir map with a grease pencil. He said his plotting was aided by global-positioning system coordinates.

Gulls screamed while personal watercraft bounced off the wake as tension built in the morning air and volunteers strived to locate Easley's body.

"We want to get him out of the water and back to his family as quickly as possible," said Page.

The worst-case scenario, according to Page, would be the body filling with warm gasses and popping up out of the water by itself, he said.

At 7:45 a.m., the boats came up with a promising spot, just a few hundred yards from Easley's last known position.

"We got strong readings from the area three times," said Page, who quickly called for a dive team.

At 7:59 a.m., three search-and-rescue volunteers docked their boat with an audible sigh and hurried off to headquarters, refusing to make a statement.

After waiting for more than an hour, divers from the Churchill County Fire Department arrived and quickly moved to the scene.

The promising object was about 30 feet down. The search was hampered by a strong wind, strong currents and murky water.

Page made plans for a coroner while an ambulance stood by at the top of the day-use boat ramp.

By 11:15 a.m., the divers were exhausted.

The object they had spent all morning trying to pull up turned out to be a tree stump.

"The good news," said Page, "Is that our equipment works very well." But the bad news was obvious. Easley was still out there. "We'll find him one way or the other," said Page.

Search-and-rescue team members stood around a live CB and waited for news.

Diver and Fallon fire chief Mike Parrish came ashore around 1:12 p.m. to get fresh oxygen tanks and a bite to eat. He looked exhausted, but pledged to keep going.

"It's a little rough out there," said the 20-year veteran diver. "But we're not giving up hope."

State Parks officials estimated there were between 14,000 to 15,000 people at the reservoir for the three-day weekend.

In an emotional but private visit, Easley's father stopped by and talked with his son's friends, who were still camped on an adjacent beach.

"It's been a rough 24 hours," said Page, who promised to keep on searching until the daylight left.

"We'll keep some patrols going over the area tonight," he said. "Tomorrow we'll hit the area with more sonar scans."

n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.


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