Missing boater at Lake Pleasant found alive

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- It's a happy ending to what could have been a Labor Day weekend tragedy. A missing boater at Lake Pleasant has been found alive and well.

3TV's Mike Watkiss spoke to that boater on Good Evening Arizona Monday, and brought us his firsthand account of what happened.

It all began when the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call from Michael LaQuery at about 10 p.m. Sunday.

According to Deputy Joaquin Enriquez, LaQuery was moored alongside dozens of other boats in Humbug Cove, where hundreds of boaters had been partying.

Bradley Johnson, 31, had last been seen sleeping on the stern of the houseboat, when a witness saw him roll off into the water. When he didn't surface, his friends began to worry and immediately started searching for him.

LaQuery asked all of the surrounding boats to lower their music, and he used his public address system to call out for Johnson, but there was no response.

Deputies and the MCSO helicopter searched the surrounding area, and detectives responded with the Lake Patrol underwater remotely operated vehicle.

"It got real serious. The police were coming in with their boats, their spotlights. People started jumping on Jet Skis, going around with flashlights," said Anthony England, who witnessed the search. "Then about a half hour later, the black sheriff's helicopter came in. It was flying super low."

Johnson was not located, and a dive team continued the search Monday morning. Witnesses told deputies that Johnson drank beer and vodka throughout the day and was very intoxicated.

Just after 2 p.m. Monday, Johnson was found near Scorpion Bay marina. He told detectives there was an altercation on the boat and he jumped out to get on another one. He said he was unable to get on that boat so he swam to shore.

Enriquez said Johnson began to walk in the dark, trying to find a way back to the marina while intoxicated and disoriented. He told deputies that he saw the sheriff's helicopter Sunday night but just kept on walking.

A person riding a personal watercraft was able to pick Johnson up and take him to the marina. "I'm alright," he told 3TV's Mike Watkiss Monday. "A little sore." He said he had walked several miles, and his feet were in some pain.

Watkiss asked him what happened out there. "Just got turned around; lost," Johnson said. "Just jumped in the water, got lost, turned around."

He said he needed some rest, but first, he and his friends were going to get some food.

Law enforcement officers tell us it does not appear there was any wrongdoing.

"It's a good outcome," says MCSO Deputy Andy Bahn. "When we have an eyewitness account that someone has gone in the water, it's all hands on deck, and we try to do everything we can."