NM State Police: Body of missing Chaparral boy found in lake

Friday, July 5, 2013 - 9:14am

Second missing Colorado teen also found submerged

A summer vacation turned tragic this week for a Chaparral family, after their missing teenage son died in an apparent drowning.

According to a close friend and colleague, the Stephenson family spends their summer vacations volunteering for a summer camp near Albuquerque for deaf children, as part of the Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch program.

"It is an annual tradition. They go up to camp every year since I've known them, they spend their vacations up there. They're just fine people -- hard-working, God-fearing, very Christian in their outlook. It's a good family," said Grace Rendall, who works with Mark Stephenson at a Christian television station in El Paso.

But the trip would soon take a deadly turn.

On Sunday night,  Mark's son, 16 year-old Seth, and another volunteer, named Noah Hooper from Colorado, went missing, after their group made a stop at Quemado Lake earlier that day.

After a three day search of the lake, using a helicopter, boat, and sonar technology, New Mexico Search and Rescue crews found two bodies.

"He [Mark] texted me today, and just told me that the boys had been found, and they're with God," said Rendall.

investigators say the two male bodies were 'submerged at the bottom of the lake."

"Seth is a very, very strong swimmer, and the lake wasn't very that deep," said Rendall.

So how could the accident have happened?

"Blackout conditions, zero visibility. Mostly muddy and very silty bottom. By silt, I mean sometimes down to two feet thick worth of silt that you would actually sink down into the bottom of the lake," said Sgt. Jeff Burke, with the New Mexico Police Dive Team.

The Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch released this statement in response to the tragedy:

"These were fine young men that were volunteering to help others here at the camp. Seth loved the horses and has been a huge help the entire summer with that area. Noah had been looking forward to coming since February. He was so excited to be here."

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