Search for Caldwell man missing in Snake River continues; fund set up to benefit family

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMarch 27, 2014 

RICKY FLORES

PHOTO PROVIDED BY SNAKE RIVER CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION

A Caldwell man who went missing almost a week ago in a boating accident on the Snake River north of Hells Canyon has not yet been found. Searchers have also not located the 24-foot jet boat, Wallowa County (Ore.) Sheriff Steve Rogers said Thursday.

The search is continuing on a limited basis, and Rogers is hoping to bring in some advanced side-sonar equipment to aid in the effort. He said Idaho Power had been hugely helpful, reducing the water flow during specific search times. Weather has hampered search efforts this week, though searchers found some debris Tuesday on the bottom of the river that is believed to have come from the boat.

Ricky M. Flores went missing Friday, March 21. At about 7 p.m., emergency personnel were summoned to the scene about 8 miles north of Hells Canyon.

The 42-year-old Flores was riding in the boat with two of his coworkers from the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Ore.

"The staff here is really taking it hard," said Cathleen Shroyer, public information officer for the Oregon prison. "There are a lot of people having a really heavy heart over the situation."

Flores began working as a correctional officer at the prison in 1998. Vice president of the security union, he was the kind of person people went to for help with problems.

"People here just really liked him," Shroyer said. She said the staff feels extremely fortunate that the other two men made it out of the frigid, fast-moving waters.

Charles W. Gissel, 42, of Ontario, and Eric A. Meyerhoffer, 43, of Payette, were able to get to shore after the boat capsized in the Wild Sheep Rapids. None of the men were wearing life jackets, Rogers said.

It's the second time in six months an employee of the Ontario prison has disappeared while recreating in the outdoors. Joe Elliott-Blakeslee, a physician at the prison, and a fellow hiker disappeared at Craters of the Moon National Monument in September; the bodies of both were later found off of a trail in the monument.

Shroyer said employees are trying to raise money for Flores' family, and a bank account benefiting the family has been set up. She declined to discuss his family as they wish for privacy at this time. Donations may be made at any U.S. Bank (specify the Ricky M. Flores Benefit Donation Account). Donations can also be made through http://www.gofundme.com/7tdp88.

Rogers said his chief deputy is giving daily updates to Flores' wife.

"She has his personal cellphone number," he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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