Thursday, 13 June 2024

Search pulls back with no sign of missing man; family promises to continue

CLEAR LAKE – On Wednesday the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that they were “scaling back” the search for a Windsor man who fell into Clear Lake Saturday and is presumed drowned, a move which angered the man's family.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed at 11 a.m. that the search for 22-year-old Matthew Richard Zanoni was being called off, based on the determination of search leader, Lt. Gary Basor.

An official statement written by Basor that was released later in the day said that, as of Wednesday morning, the search was “scaled down significantly,” but would continue with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Teams, as well as with the continued efforts of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Service Patrol.

Zanoni is described as a white Caucasian male, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 145 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes, according to Basor. He was last seen wearing board shorts and white socks. Zanoni was not wearing as shirt.

Zanoni was a passenger on an 18-foot Tracker pontoon boat when he went into the water, Basor reported. The boat was stopped about 100 to 150 feet offshore from Shag Rock, located just west of Buckingham peninsula, and some of its passengers had gone swimming.

Witnesses told authorities that Zanoni had been drinking alcoholic prior to the accident and that he wasn't wearing a life vest when he went into the lake, according to Basor's report.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol first responded to the Rattlesnake Island area, based on the initial reports, Basor reported. When they arrived and couldn't find the boat they made a followup call and found that the incident occurred near Shag Rock.

Basor said when the deputies arrived, witnesses reported that several attempts were made by those on the pontoon boat to locate Zanoni.

Minutes after arriving, deputies requested that the North Shore Dive Team assist the sheriff’s department in the rescue efforts, said Basor. Members of the North Shore Dive Team made several dives that afternoon.

Beginning Sunday and lasting through Tuesday at 5 p.m., members of the North Shore Dive Team, the Lake County Search and Rescue Dive Team, as well as divers from Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties continued searching for Zanoni, Basor reported.

Basor said Thomas Tessier of Santa Rosa-based Aqua-Tech Inc. also volunteered to help, bringing his highly sophisticated drop sonar equipment for the search effort. Tessier helped search for a drowning victim on the lake in May.

The team – which Basor said was composed of highly trained professionals – assisted in more than 100 drop search positions in the given search area, which covered over one million square feet within the waters of Clear Lake.

Each location identified as a potential location for Zanoni was checked and searched, said Basor, but recovery efforts were temporarily slowed when civilian vessels also searching for Zanoni entered the search area causing concern for the diver’s safety. The boats were directed to leave the immediate area.

Family taking its own measures

Jennifer and Laura Zanoni, Matt Zanoni's sisters, were angry that the search was called off.

They said officials told them that they needed to “let nature take its course,” with Matt Zanoni's body expected to surface in about two weeks due to decomposition.

The sisters also were concerned because they said witnesses on the boat reported there were fishermen in the area who saw Matt Zanoni go into the water, yet the fishermen left quickly after the accident and didn't stay around to give a statement to sheriff's deputies.

They insisted that alcohol couldn't have been a major factor, as they were told by witnesses that he only had a few beers before he disappeared over the boat's side.

Jennifer Zanoni said she began making calls at 8 a.m. Wednesday, asking various agencies around the state for help.

Basor's report, however, said he had been in contact, and had been contacted, by some of those other agencies, including the US Coast Guard, and all agreed that every immediate effort to recover Zanoni has been tried.

“There's only so much we can do,” Chief Deputy Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriffs' Office told Lake County News.

He said the sonar equipment volunteered by Aqua-Tec was better than that used by Sonoma County.

Perdock also asserted that the Zanonis had told the other agencies that it was a rescue operation, not a recovery, which it had technically been since Sunday.

The Zanoni family plans to hire their own divers, who are scheduled to begin searching for Matt Zanoni on Saturday.

“Right now we're just trying to focus on finding that body so we can have some closure,” said Laura Zanoni.

Jennifer Zanoni asked for anyone who saw the incident to call her at 480-4254.

Basor reported that the investigation into the incident's cause is continuing.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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