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Search for missing Palouse Falls swimmer postponed

April 23, 2018 Updated Mon., April 23, 2018 at 6:58 p.m.

The search for a swimmer who went missing Saturday at the base of Palouse Falls was called off Sunday.

Authorities deemed conditions too unsafe.

Isaac Engell, a 23-year-old from Colville, was identified online by friends and family as the swimmer who is presumed dead. Engell was swimming with a group of friends in the pool under the waterfall when Franklin County sheriff’s deputies said he was sucked under and wasn’t able to resurface.

Authorities began a search Saturday afternoon, but it was determined the current was too powerful to risk diving underwater.

“The problem is, the falls are at their peak for this time of year,” said Sheriff Jim Raymond. “It creates a lot of turbulence and undertow and big boulders and everything rolling around down there. It’s just too risky.”

Audra Sims, the area manager for the Blue Mountain Region of Washington State Parks, said the decision was also made Sunday morning to close the park for a few days until Engell’s body is removed from underneath the waterfall by “natural processes.”

“And so we are offering some consideration, empathy, and respect for the family,” she said. “And we are also offering some empathy, consideration and respect for the public.”

Those who knew Engell said he was determined, inspiring and had knack for making connections with others. Lincoln Bevers, who was a roommate with Engell for a few years, said he was “probably the most ambitious 23-year-old I ever met.”

“We had several late conversations in the kitchen about life and faith and following your dreams,” Bevers wrote in a Facebook message. “I remember I told him to trust and leap into his passions and he got all inspired.”

That inspiration eventually led him to open his own business, called Qual Pro, a window and rain gutter cleaning service. Before he went missing, he was running the business out of Coeur d’Alene, where he also lived.

Mark Mitchell is a pastor at Lake City Church in Coeur d’Alene and owns a home where he mentors young men. Engell stayed with Mitchell for two years from about 2015 to 2017, where Mitchell said he grew to know him.

“He would do anything for anybody,” he said. “All you had to was ask and he’d be right there.”

Mitchell said Engell loved the outdoors, including hiking, snowshoeing and swimming. On a hot summer day, he said it wouldn’t be unusual to see Engell pedal his bike to Lake Coeur d’Alene and hop in for a minute before speeding away.

“Just a marvelous young man,” he said. “He’s going to be deeply missed.”

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