Monday, 8 August 2016

The Garcia Case and Adrian Lynch

In February 2012, a student called Franco Garcia went missing in Boston. The weather conditions were not the best for searching, but an extensive search was mounted. It found nothing. But in April that year, the body of the student was discovered in a local reservoir. These are extracts from reports written at that time:

“Franco Garcia, 21, was last seen on Feb. 22, 2012 at Mary Ann’s bar in the 1900 block of Beacon Street in Brighton, Mass. The bar, which is frequented by Boston College students, is in Cleveland Circle area, not far from the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. That night, it was packed with students celebrating Mardi Gras.”

“At 11:27 p.m., Garcia sent close friend Corteselli a text message that read in part, "don’t leave w/out me." She saw Garcia in the bar about 30 minutes later, and he knew that she wasn't planning to leave without him. Garcia had some mixed drinks and looked drunk "but not smashed," reported the paper. He was last seen by friends around 12:15 a.m., but by bar close, no one could find him. Corteselli said she thought he might have taken a campus shuttle to the dorm or a taxi to his family's home, where he lived. “

“During the investigation into Garcia's disappearance, police conducted searches on foot and by helicopter near the college, but found nothing. On Feb. 27, state police specialists scanned the 20 to 25 foot deep Chestnut Hill Reservoir using side-scanning sonar. After three hours of scanning turned up nothing, two divers were towed underwater through one section of the pond, said State Police spokesman David Procopio to, with no results.”

“On Wednesday, April 11, a man walking his dog reported seeing a body in about 7 feet of heavily weeded water in the Chestnut Hill Reservoir about 18 feet off shore. He flagged down two joggers who called 911. The body was positively identified at autopsy as Franco Garcia. According to, police told the family that the clothes on the body matched the description of what Garcia was wearing when he was last seen. His wallet was found inside his pocket, and his eyeglasses and cash were also recovered. “

A private investigator who was also working on the case noted that: “The authorities searched the Reservoir with helicopters, a boat, divers and sonar and did not locate Franco”

I have highlighted this case for an obvious reason. It matches in many respects that of the tragic case of Adrian Lynch. A student, leaving a bar, going home on their own, having been drinking, at a time of the year when hypothermia could easily set in.

“According to a volunteer from Garcia's search team, the temperature on the night he disappeared was in the low 30s, too cold to be outside without a coat for a long length of time.”

The reservoir was an obvious site, and as with the Jersey case, searches were extensive: “On Feb. 27, state police specialists scanned the 20 to 25 foot deep Chestnut Hill Reservoir using side-scanning sonar. After three hours of scanning turned up nothing, two divers were towed underwater through one section of the pond”

As with the Jersey case, while the police did not rule out other possibilities, there were no physical signs of trauma: “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not yet ruled on cause or manner of death pending further toxicological testing, some of it at the Garcia family's request, but the examination did not reveal any broken bones or other significant injury. Those observations, along with cash and other personal effects retrieved from Mr. Garcia’s clothing, are consistent with an accidental fall into the water.”

The State Police spokesman was at a loss to explain exactly why Garcia’s body was not found in the extensive search, but part of the reason seems to be that the body of the deceased was located in an area where background “noise” from heavy weeds and undergrowth overhanging into the water made the sonar useless as a tool:

“Poor visibility, silt, and weeds growing several feet high probably prevented divers from finding Garcia’s body. “It’s a large body of water, and unfortunately, underwater search is not an exact science, ‘Police spokesman David Procopio said. “It was really tough conditions, and they were tireless in their efforts.’

Dogs were also used in the search, and there was CCTV footage of Garcia from the area, and even a phone signal placing him around the vicinity where the reservoir was.

In April 2012, a passerby spotted the body around 8 a.m. floating about 18 feet from shore in murky water filled with dense weeds.

If there are lessons to be learned, it is that areas of water such as reservoirs are extremely difficult to search, especially if overgrown. The case of Franco Garcia also suggests that the general improvement in visibility caused by the better hours of daylight and weather conditions in April make finding a body more likely; exactly the same seems to have happened (albeit later in the year) in the case of Adrian Lynch.

The lesson here is that revisiting a place like a reservoir, six months after incidents have occurred when they took place in the darker winter months is an exercise worth doing, with special attention being given to those parts of a reservoir least open to search, and where electronic methods encounter too many obstructions to build a clear picture.

It is to be hoped that the family of Adrian Lynch will soon be able to reach a kind of closure, because at least they can now bury their son and mourn. As a father of three sons, one around his age, I cannot begin to imagine how they must feel.

His family have asked that concerned Islanders should support Jersey's search and rescue charities:

'We do understand though that some people want to help in any way they can, and so we thought, should you wish to make a donation, then we would suggest donating to any one of the local voluntary rescue services that helped look for Adrian.'

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