NewsCovering Louisiana


UPDATE: Clay dam 'lost,' passive recovery efforts to resume in search for 4-year-old

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Posted at 11:37 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 13:59:58-04

Officials will resume passive recovery efforts over the next few days in the search for four-year-old Ellis Boudean, who disappeared last Wednesday near a canal in Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve.

Work began Monday to build a dam to start draining the canal. The pumps were turned on about 12:15 P.M. Tuesday and pumped out about 48 inches of water in under four hours.

Unfortunately, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office updated shortly after 9 P.M. on Tuesday., efforts to pump out the area of interest in the canal "were not completely successful."

"We lost the clay dam earlier tonight, and the original water levels returned quickly," said Sheriff Joseph Lopinto.

Passive recovery efforts will resume over the next few days.

"We will have boats in the water looking for disturbances in the duckweed and surface," Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said in their Facebook post, "but will not be employing active techniques such as sonar equipment or divers unless we see something that indicates they are needed. During active operations, we typically have divers in the water constantly searching along with the sonar equipment when it’s available."

Crews said their efforts to drain the canal were not in vain and they were able to drain half the water from the search area, which allowed them to check the root systems on the banks, alligator dens along the waterline, subsurface dens, culverts, and overhanging banks that were previously underwater.

They were also able to narrow the search area for the remote operating vehicle and its sonar equipment.

During a press conference earlier on Tuesday, Lopinto said there was progress being made in the search for Boudean, who disappeared six days ago.

Lopinto said the berm that was created to help drop the water in the area where Boudean was last seen was holding, and the pump they brought in was working better than expected. He said they have other pumps but didn't want to drop the water too quickly or with too much force, because that might have damaged the temporary berm they were using.

He said that, as the water levels dropped and more areas were accessible to searching, those areas were being searched.

Lopinto estimated that they were ahead of schedule, and added that they would continue pumping.

"We're going to keep pumps running, I want to keep people out here. I'm not planning on going home, and I know my men and women are planning on doing the same," he said.

A member of the media asked if the operation was worth it.

"If we're able to make a recovery, it would be worth it. The location was pinpointed well enough to say this operation is worth it" to find Baudean, he said.

He said volunteers were instrumental in getting rid of almost a foot of duckweed, and that helped with the pumping and the search.

Lopinto said those working on the operation were very well fed by people showing up with food.

When asked, Lopinto said there were officials on site ready to deal with wildlife, but there has not been a problem.

"There are alligators out there; we haven't seen anything too large. The largest was about 4 feet in this area, nothing that concerns us," he said. "We're not overly worried about the wildlife. They're probably more afraid of us than we are of them."

Searchers will remain in the area over the next few days to ensure the site is returned to the pristine condition.

Here's the story from earlier today:

MARRERO, La. (AP) - Authorities in Louisiana are preparing to drain part of a canal in a heavily wooded park near New Orleans in a search for the remains of a missing child.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto told reporters that it's part of an effort to bring some sense of closure to the family of 4-year-old Ellis Baudean.

The child went missing Thursday evening in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and is believed to have fallen into the water.

The mother jumped into the murky water but was unable to find him.

On Monday, work began on building a dam to start draining the canal. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said that it would likely be completed on Tuesday.

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