Body of missing paddle boarder recovered at Rockport State Park

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ROCKPORT STATE PARK, Utah -- After searching for about 24 hours, crews have recovered the body of a missing paddle boarder at Rockport State Park Saturday.

Joshua Merkley, 21, of Layton. Image courtesy Summit County Sheriff's Office.

Joshua Merkley, 21, of Layton. Image courtesy Summit County Sheriff's Office.

Joshua Merkley, 21 of Layton, went missing Friday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. when a gust of wind came through and separated him from his paddle board. It was not clear if he was wearing a life jacket.

Crews searched Friday and until about 2 a.m. Saturday, and search efforts resumed at about 6 a.m. Saturday. Sheriff J. Martinez, Summit County Sheriff's Office, tweeted at 3:41 p.m. that, "SAR has recovered Joshua Merkley at Rockport State Park. Our hearts go out to the family."

Merkley was found about 100 feet from where he had last been seen. The water was about 80 feet deep in that area.

The search efforts consisted of dive teams and SONAR efforts, and helicopters from LifeFlight and the Department of Public Safety contributed to the search for several hours on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Rockport Reservoir had limited access for recreation as the search continued. Boat use was limited to south of the boat ramp, according to tweets from sheriff's office.

Merkley's family asked for privacy as the search continued.


  • Diana Kretzschmar

    Not sure if he was wearing a life jacket?? How can you be not sure? You found him? You don’t ALWAYS have to wear your Life jacket. It can also be lethal if you do, actually. BUT! If there is bad weather, you can’t swim or are a beginner – then yes you should. I’m an avid Paddleboarder and as sad as this story is, it doesn’t make sense to me! I’ve paddled in hail and in bad winds and high waves. You don’t just get separated like that from your board AND your friends. IF you get in a situation like this, you ALWAYS look after and for your friends. Also, take your phone with you! Ebay sells waterproof pouches (that I swear by and buy in bulk – for friends to use too) for $1.90 that are waterproof. They are great not only for taking pictures but also to call for help if needed. Another thing, with bad gushes of wind you should be pushed against any shoreline, this reservoir doesn’t look too big. Might be deceiving but still. Getting thrown from your board, the board doesn’t just swim away that easily. You can swim after it. He was said to be in good shape!? If you fall n hit your head on the board, since there is no ground underneath, you most likely will push the board more down and cracking your skull. Depending how long they were out there but dehydration is also something that needs to be considered as well as hunger! You energy will go and it’s good to pack a snack. As for the lifevest in hot sunny conditions, being the fact that you’re majority of the time above water vs. wakeboarders, tubers, etc. you might even suffer a heatstroke before you drown. Or if failing to signal yourself to a boater and they come at you fast, with a life vest on, you’ll be unable to dive down out of harms way. Bad weather conditions, there won’t be many boats out there, hence the lake will be rather empty.
    So horribly sad that this had to happen but I almost wonder if it could’ve been prevented in many other ways than wearing a life jacket.

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