Klamath River search for drowning victim continues

HAPPY CAMP, Calif. —The search continues for a fire camp catering employee who is missing and presumed drowned in the Klamath River.

Richard Pearson Jr., 42, of Bakersfield, Calif., disappeared along with his friend and co-worker George James Barbis, 35, of Okanogan, Wash., as they swam in the river near Clear Creek Monday.

Crews recovered Barbis’ body Monday night, and were continuing their search for Pearson today.

Frank Gonzalez, who worked with the two drowning victims at Teen Challenge Port-A-Pit, a company that contracts to provide meals at fire camps, called the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department Monday at about 2:45 p.m. to report that two of his friends had disappeared while the three swam together.

Gonzalez told authorities that one of the men wasn’t a strong swimmer and the other had sore ribs from an injury. He said they got tired and were swept into the current and disappeared.

Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said the mouth of Clear Creek has a popular swimming hole. Just beyond that, though, the main stream of the river, which looks deceptively calm, has a strong undercurrent.

Sheriff’s department divers who recovered Barbis’ body reported that they have found bodies of two other drowning victims in the same hole in recent years, Gravenkamp said.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter is searching from the air, and deputies and Forest Service crews are walking the banks in hopes of spotting Pearson, Gravenkamp reported.
— Anita Burke

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