August 28, 2022 — Press Release from the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office
Tip Top Search and Rescue (TTSAR), Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), and Wyoming Game and Fish continued their search this morning (Saturday) in the area around Moosehead Bay on Fremont Lake, north of Pinedale, Wyoming, for a missing Pinedale man, “Rick” De Ruiter Zylker, who was last seen Wednesday afternoon while swimming with co-workers and friends. We were unsuccessful in locating Mr. Zylker this morning, and strong winds picked up around noon, which stalled search efforts this afternoon (Saturday).
Speaking on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office and TTSAR, I wanted to put out a sincere “thank you” to Mr. Zylker’s family for their support and understanding during this very difficult time; to Rick’s co-workers at Ridleys and Ace Hardware for providing lunches and valuable information which has aided thus far in the search; and to our public for their outreach of support and prayers, as well as respecting the search area and steering clear as to not disrupt our search boat and crew.
A message from Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Travis Bingham
The Sheriff’s Office has received numerous calls to assist in the search; however, at this point in time, we have enough volunteers and resources to continue our efforts.
I would like to try and clarify some commonly asked questions and educate the public on our search thus far. Many people have offered to come out and assist because their boats are equipped with side-scan sonar. While this is the same technology, we use a different application.
On your standard fishing boat, the transducer is mounted to the underside of the vessel. This provides an underwater map directly below and to the sides of the boat. We utilize a Tow Fish. It looks similar to a yellow torpedo. The Tow Fish is attached to a cable, and it is lowered into the water using a spool and motor. The crew attempted to get the Tow Fish as close to the bottom as possible without getting it snagged in trees or rocks. The Tow Fish emits a signal outside ways, thus the term “side-scan” and feeds it back to the operator. This is done in order to produce a shadow on any object sitting on the lake floor. Liken it to shining a flashlight in front of you. Any object will cast a shadow, and solid objects will appear brighter. This helps us to determine the size and shape of the object. Fremont Lake has a wide range of bottom surfaces: from sandy smooth, sandy wavy, rock outcroppings, boulders bigger than cars, and underwater cliffs. The sandy bottoms are easy to pick out objects and clear; the rocks are more challenging and require coming in at several different angles.
Why can’t we utilize divers or dive teams? The area we are searching ranges in depth from 150ft to 300ft of water. Our target range is 250ft. Even 7,000ft above sea level, the pressures at that depth are well over 100 pounds per square inch (psi). Recreational divers normally don’t exceed 130ft as going deeper would require decompression. Temperatures at that depth would be in the 30s, and visibility would be zero without the aid of a light. Because of this, our team is equipped with an underwater remote-operated vehicle or ROV.
Can we call on some of these reputable recovery/search teams we’ve seen on Television to assist? Yes. We can. However, we are using the same or very similar equipment, technology, and our Captain, TTSAR volunteer John Linn, is doing the same thing they would be doing. John has countless hours of experience and has helped families across this state and bordering states recover loved ones. I can guarantee this is not about pride. John belongs to a special group of individuals who have made it their life’s mission in offering this service. He is on the phone with fellow searchers Gene and Sandy Ralston almost every evening, ensuring nothing is missed. If John feels he needs help or more specialized equipment, then he will call upon that individual, and we will get them here. Currently, TTSAR boat Closure, John Linn, and a select few of our TTSAR members are the only crew in this state capable of providing this service.
Since Wednesday afternoon, John Linn and his crew have covered an area of approximately 1,800ft by 2,500ft. Our plans are to give the crew a break tomorrow, Sunday, make some changes to the equipment to enhance the coverage area in the rocky areas, then start back up Monday morning. The Upper Fremont Lake Boat Dock is open to the public. We just ask that anyone headed to the inlet stay toward the west end of the lake when approaching Moosehead Bay and try and keep your wake at a minimum.
We will continue to provide updates and answer questions as time permits. Please keep the De Ruiter Zylker family and our search teams in your thoughts and prayers.