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OGDEN — A community and grieving family held its breath during a day-long recovery operation for the body of a young Layton boy presumed drowned and lost in the murky waters of the Weber River.
As each hour passed Saturday in the chill of a breezy May afternoon, the hope of finding Corbin Anderson's body dimmed somewhat, but multiple teams of searchers pressed on, undeterred in their efforts.
"It is obviously difficult and traumatic," said Ogden Police Lt. Danielle Croyle, who said teams had hopes of finding the boy's body by day's end. The search was called off late in the day, however, after the stubborn river refused to yield any answers.
Initial hopes of a recovery were buoyed by a massive operation to divert the rushing waters of the Weber River, channeling 90 percent of its flow around a pooling bend in the river where Corbin slipped off a rock and fell on April 28.
The boy, 4, was posing with his older brother and other family for a picture when the accident happened just north of 24th Street at 300 W. Exchange Road.
Over the course of the ensuing days, flows into the Weber River were greatly reduced by curtailing releases from the upstream Echo Reservoir in Summit County. With the rushing water reduced to a minimum, equipment and workers donated by E.K. Bailey, an Ogden construction company, set about the huge task Saturday to build a makeshift river channel around the spot where Corbin fell.
A long line of Jersey barriers were set in the river, in addition to heaps of boulders to corral the current. Sandbags, too, were brought in to direct the flows away from three separate pools where searchers were concentrating their hunt for the boy's body.
Dive teams from three agencies — Weber and Davis county sheriff's offices and the Utah Department of Public Safety — rotated in hour-long shifts to probe the frigid water and its deep eddies.
The search was a rough-going for the divers, explained Weber County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Klint Anderson, because as much as the flows had been reduced, the water was still bashing against the men.
"The force of the water is such that it is beating them against the rocks," Anderson said. "They're trying to reach these places where the water is deep and it is still quite treacherous."
Two pumps brought in were churning water out of the pools at 2,200 gallons a minute, but it still wasn't drawing down the levels quickly enough to aid in Saturday's search. Two larger pumps were brought in before an actual grid search began, with volunteer search teams standing in water up past their chests while prodding the bottom with poles. Searchers were working on the belief that the boy's body was caught in an undertow and then tangled up in debris, unable to come to the surface.
Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther said the helicopter flew the length of the river at low altitude, concentrating on the area between 24th and 17th streets, where there is a diversion dam that most likely kept the boy's body from traveling any father down stream.
"Because of the glare of the sun on the rocks, it can be difficult to see very much at all from the banks," Lowther said. "In the helicopter, you get a different view. There are a lot of places you can see right to the bottom of the river."
Croyle said it is unclear how long this extent of dedicated resources to find the body of the young drowning victim will, or can, continue.
The river flows that are being held back eventually wind west to the fields of farmers who depend on it for their crops.
"It's a huge effort of coordination that is presenting some hardship to those farmers who are getting less water," Anderson said. "But we're doing everything we can that is practical and possible today."
The search and its massive amount of manpower brought out curious onlookers who wanted to catch a closer glimpse of the operation, or those who wandered up to police lines out of concern for the family.
Raymond Delgado, accompanied by his 10-year-old daughter Lindsee, showed up early Saturday afternoon, hoping he could something, anything to help.
"It's a sad story. It's been a long time they've been looking and the family needs some closure for this thing."
One of those family members, Carl Jackson, has been walking the banks of the river since Tuesday, hoping he will find his young relative.
"It's been hard, so hard," he said, as each day has passed with no answers. "You hope for the best, but everything's a test. You just have to get through it."