Body recovered believed to be of man who fell in Alameda County canal

Firebaugh, CA - June 03: The Delta-Mendota Canal, right, and a parallel canal under the Panoche Water District's control, left, on Friday, June 3, 2022 in Firebaugh, CA. In April the U.S. Attorney's office charged the head of the Panoche Water Distri

A body believed to be of a man who had fallen into a canal in Alameda County in late May was recovered earlier this week, the Sheriff's Office said Friday.

A man who matched the description of 56-year-old Hollister resident Lester Ashcraft was recovered early Tuesday morning from the Delta-Mendota Canal off S. Tracy Boulevard in Tracy, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. An employee of the San Louis Delta Mendota Water Authority had reported seeing a body near the pumping station.     

The tragedy was first reported just before 10 p.m. on May 31, when deputies were alerted to a possible drowning at the Delta-Mendota Canal under Grant Line Road. A group fishing in the area said t

hat a man fell into the canal and got swept away by the rapid current.     

Ashcraft reportedly slipped from a steep embankment and the group he was with attempted to rescue him, but he could not stay afloat in the fast current.

In an effort to find Ashcraft, the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority slowed the canal's current from 3,500 cubic feet per second to 900 cubic feet per second, the Sheriff's Office said, but the current was still unsafe for divers to enter.     

Despite searches by air, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and on foot, the multi-agency effort to locate Ashcraft had been unsuccessful, said the Sheriff's Office on social media. Rescue crews also conducted an additional search again on June 1 but could not locate him.     

After June 2, the recovery of Ashcraft was going to be "dictated by the current," the Sheriff's Office said.     

Once Ashcraft was located near the pumping station on Tuesday, the water was still too treacherous to enter, the Sheriff's Office said. Deputies from both the San Joaquin and Alameda County sheriff's offices responded, along with Tracy firefighters, who used a ladder truck and pullies to retrieve Ashcraft's body.     

According to the Alameda County Sheriff, the medical examiner located a wallet in the person's pocket which contained an I.D. card for Ashcraft. Even though authorities are pretty sure it is him, a complete identification will be carried out in order to confirm it is Ashcraft, the Sheriff's Office said.