WATONGA, Okla. (KFOR) – Authorities say they believe a body recovered from the North Canadian River belongs to a missing Watonga man.
The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office says Stephen Courtney, 62, was reported missing February 13 by his family. On February 14, deputies received a call about an abandoned vehicle north of Watonga near a bridge over the North Canadian River.
Deputies arrived and confirmed that this was the vehicle Courtney was reported to be last seen driving. That evening, Sheriff Travis Daugherty called out all deputies and requested assistance from the Watonga Police Department to conduct a search of the area around the vehicle. After approximately 6 hours, authorities say the search was called off due to extremely low temperatures and reportedly close to one foot of snow covering the ground.
Over the next 10 days, there were reportedly multiple searches conducted by all agencies involved. Sheriff Daugherty says he contacted the Oklahoma Army Corps of Engineers to request the Canton Dam water release be temporarily shut off. Authorities believed that doing this would allow for the water in the river to begin receding and allow for easier search of the area. The request was granted by the Corps of Engineers.
On the morning of February 27, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Rapid Response Service, Search and Rescue of a possible discovery of the 62-year-old’s body near the area of the original search. The ice had reportedly cleared off the river allowing for a better search of the area and access for boats and search equipment.
Authorities arrived and recovered the body from the river. They say the body is believed to belong to Courtney. Upon release by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Marine Division and the Oklahoma Medical Examiner, the body was transported to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office for further examination.
“We would like to thank all law enforcement agencies, and individuals that assisted with this search,” the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday.
“We request that you keep the family of Stephen Courtney in your thoughts and prayers through this tough time and pray for their healing.”
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