A day at the East Verde turned tragic when a Payson resident drowned while playing in the river northeast of Payson on the Cracker Jack Mine road. The Gila County Sheriff’s Office was notified at approximately 1 p.m. of a missing subject who was with friends at the river and disappeared.
Brett Baldonado, 27, was reported to be playing around in the water and did not appear to be in distress according to the two other subjects who were there. The other two individuals went up the road and when they came back, they could not locate him. They searched the area and then called for assistance.
Payson Police received the initial call, which was a broken cell phone connection and could only hear Crackerjack and friend under water. Payson Police relayed the information to the Gila County Sheriff’s Office and deputies were dispatched.
When deputies arrived on scene, information was gathered on where and when Baldonado was last seen and the Gila County Dive Team was activated along with Search and Rescue to try and locate the subject. The area was checked for the subject as no one had seen him go underwater and when the dive team arrived, they started to search the water in the area he was last seen.
At approximately 2:47 p.m., dive team members located Baldonado in approximately 7 feet of water.