Family seeks to recover body of drowned kayaker

Gofundme site raises more than $50,000 for dive into Lake Crescent

PORT ANGELES — A GoFundMe campaign to pay for locating the body of Travis Valenti, kayaker from New York who was lost and presumed drowned in Lake Crescent on the afternoon of June 9, has raised more than $50,000 from more than 500 donations since being set up on Tuesday.

The fundraiser, “Help us find Travis Valenti,” can be viewed at https://gf.me/v/c/gfm/help-us-find-travis-valenti.

The fundraising request says: “Travis Valenti had a kayaking accident on Fri in Washington State at Lake Crescent & presumed deceased. Unfortunately, park rangers searched but don’t have a dive team to search further. If you have anyone that you know of who can HELP us in the SEARCH/RECOVERY, we’d greatly appreciate it. We need to be able to find him & bring him home. The family is obviously distraught & want their son’s body back in NY. Any agency/resources/info is greatly appreciated. Thank you kindly!”

As of 4:30 p.m. Friday, the campaign had raised $50,042 from 556 donations. The goal had been $20,000.

Olympic National Park no longer has a dive team. A June 2019 incident report regarding a search for a woman west of Barnes Point referenced a dive team from Kitsap County.

When a diver went missing in Devil’s Punchbowl in September 2022, a Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Public Safety and Natural Resource dive team was called in.

Rory Kallappa, chief of Public Safety and Natural Resources for the tribe, said Thursday that the family had called several times but since it is the park’s jurisdiction, they would have to be invited first.

“The body could be as deep as 500 feet, which we don’t have the capability to do. If the rangers call, then we’ll go. It’s their area. They know that water better than anybody,” Kallappa said.

Marlene Junker, Valenti’s fiancée, said in a Thursday voicemail that the family does have divers willing to go down and help look for him. She said in a later telephone conversation that Christian Aid Ministries had received a permit to dive in the lake.

A receptionist at the organization’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio said Thursday, “We did receive a request to do that,” but that no one was available to confirm whether a permit had been received. An email seeking confirmation was not answered by late Friday afternoon.

Olympic National Park spokesman Amos Almy wrote in a Friday email that he was waiting to hear back from the person who would be able to confirm that.

Christian Aid Ministries is a Berlin, Ohio-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that describes itself as “a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals.”

It has operated a search and rescue division since 2016 that currently has teams in Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Virginia, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and Pennsylvania, it said on its website.

“We also have rescue boats with high-quality SONAR for water searches and rescues. When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, our rescue boats were kept busy rescuing 429 people from floodwaters,” it added.

The organization’s website said each team’s equipment includes computers, mapping software, GPS units and a communications system (handheld radios and repeater).

Lake Crescent is the second deepest lake in Washington state, reaching depths of over 600 feet.

The 1927 Chevrolet belonging to Russel and Blanch Warren, a Bogachiel couple who disappeared in 1929, was discovered in April 2002 at a depth of 170 feet off Ambulance Point, also known as Meldrim Point.

In 2006, a submarine was tested in the lake. It descended to a depth of 200 feet.

According to https://www.scubadiving.com/ recreational scuba divers typically can get down only to 130 feet, a standard established by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s. Exceeding that limit still requires special permission from a commanding officer and civilian are required to get technical certification, the website stated.

According to the Divers Alert Network website, diving to 500 feet or more, known as “storage depth,” typically is too deep to use air, so divers breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen called heliox.

“Below 500 feet, heliox can cause high-pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS), which is characterized by tremors. To combat this, a small amount of nitrogen is included in the breathing mix. Its narcotic effect at depth helps reduce the tremors,” the website said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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