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Missing Planada man found dead in canal

POSTED July 16, 2010 10:10 p.m.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department pulled the body of a Hispanic man from a canal in Planada Wednesday night that was that of a man reported missing July 10.

Authorities identified the man as Raul Avalis, 30, of Planada. Avalis had last been seen on July 10 in the canal.

The sheriff’s department responded to a report of a possible drowning around 11:30 p.m. July 10 at a canal at Childs and Hupp avenues in Planada.

A witness said his friend went into the canal in that area and never re-surfaced. He went to the Cal Fire Station to report it, which in turn called the sheriff’s department, said sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie.

The sheriff’s dive team was dispatched and searched over a mile of the canal, but was unable to locate Avalis, MacKenzie said. The sheriff department’s helicopter also was in the air using its infrared equipment to detect any possible body heat in the fields and roads in the surrounding area, but also was unable to locate any evidence of the missing man.

“As investigators interviewed the witness, conflicting statements made it impossible to determine the circumstances surrounding the individual’s disappearance,” MacKenzie said. “Since there was no evidence of foul play at the time of the incident, a missing person’s investigation was opened.”

Around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday the sheriff’s department’s dive and rescue team recovered Avalis’ body in the canal at Gerard Avenue and Santa Fe Road.

An autopsy is scheduled for later this week to help determine the cause of death and maybe some of the circumstances leading up to it.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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