Searchers still unable to find drowning victim
by Sublette County Sheriff’s Office
September 11, 2022
PINEDALE, WYOMING – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2022 update
After over two weeks of searching for missing Pinedale man, Rick De Ruiter Zylker, Tip Top Search and Rescue (TTSAR) has been unsuccessful in recovering his body. Mr. Zylker was last seen in the early afternoon of Wednesday, August 24th swimming amongst friends and co-workers in Fremont Lake, when he went underwater, never to resurface.
The challenges faced by the TTSAR team and rescue boat Closure, which have prevented a successful recovery, are the depth of the search and the topography of the lake bottom, which is covered in a myriad of rock outcroppings, boulders, shelves, benches, and cliffs. It is very similar to what you see above water in that area.
TTSAR is going to suspend search efforts in order to give the Closure crew a break and allow them to catch up with their families and tend to some things at home. Plans are to return in a week or two to resume search efforts with the remote operated vehicle (ROV).
We have reached out to other professionals in the field of underwater recovery. Those we have spoken with are willing to help, but feel they will have the same challenges our crew has been faced with. After speaking with family members, we are also looking into a new technology called LIDAR which is used in underwater mapping. The application has yet to be used for drowning recovery; however, it utilizes unmanned drones which can map bodies of water from above or below the water’s surface.
Prior to this incident, TTSAR applied for and received a grant to update the "tow-fish" and side-scan equipment on our boat as we can no longer get it serviced and parts are unavailable. Due to supply chain issues, we don’t know if we’ll receive this new equipment before Fremont Lake ices over for the winter.
While we can’t definitively say Mr. Zylker’s body will never return to the surface on its own, the likelihood of this occurring at the depth, pressures at that depth, and temperatures at that depth in Fremont Lake is very unlikely. We were able to drop a temperature probe into the lake to record temperatures at different depths. At the surface, temperatures ranged from 65 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit (F). At twenty feet below the surface, the temperature gradually decreases to around 58 F, below 40 feet the temperature drops significantly, and at 100 feet the temperature is 35 F. In the area crews searched, there is minimal to no underwater current evident by lack of silt accumulation, ambient light disappears around 170 feet below the surface, and pressures at 250 feet reach 750,000 Pascal or 110 psi.
We can’t thank the family of Mr. Zylker and our community enough for their support and understanding during this tragic event. Thank you to Brian and Leslie Nate of First Bank for providing lunches last week and Peggy Weber for bringing up lunch this week. Our hearts go out to Rick’s family, his co-workers at Ridley’s, and the many friends and customers he met here in Sublette County.
We will continue to provide updates and answer questions the best we can.