Man Drowns In East Verde River

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A 27-year-old Payson man drowned Monday morning in seven feet of water while playing with friends.

The Gila County Dive Team found the body of Brett Baldonado submerged in the East Verde River just off the Cracker Jack Mine Road northeast of Payson two hours after friends reported him missing.

Baldonado was reportedly with two friends at the river and “did not appear to be in distress.”

When a female friend walked off to find the other friend, Baldonado stayed in the water.

When both friends returned to where Baldonado was, he had disappeared, said Lt. Tim Scott with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.

About 1 p.m., dispatch with the Payson Police Department received a broken cell phone connection and could only make out “Cracker Jack” and “friend under water.”

Deputies and search and rescue volunteers responded and walked up and down the wide bank for any sign of Baldonado, but found no clues.

Two members of the dive team searched through an area of water just south of a concrete apron off Cracker Jack Mine Road and at 2:45 p.m., found Baldonado’s body in seven feet of water.

The area has a steady current similarly found throughout the East Verde, Scott said.

It is unknown how Baldonado drowned or if he knew how to swim.

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