Billy Burke’s Body Found

By on October 14, 2015
Billy Burke on the summit of the Grand Teton, September 3. Photo: Billy Burke

Billy Burke on the summit of the Grand Teton, September 3. Photo: Billy Burke

Remains of the beloved Jackson resident were recovered this morning in Lake Powell.

Jackson, WY – Friends and family of 29-year-old Billy Burke may now gain some semblance of closure knowing his body was recovered at approximately 9:40 a.m. today from Lake Powell in Arizona, according to Christiana Admiral of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Burke’s body was spotted with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), at a depth of 153 feet at the base of a cliff in Face Canyon, where his friends reported that he entered the water. Burke, a 10-year Jackson resident, had been missing since Friday after he back-flipped off the 90-foot cliff.

Close friend and witness Scotty Dixon, of Jackson, said Burke was unable to make a full rotation in the air and was knocked unconscious when he hit the water. When Dixon and friends, including two free divers who dove more than 30 feet, failed to find Burke, they called in search and rescue.

Surrounded by rugged terrain and at a water depth of more than 150 feet, the area where Burke went missing presented difficulty for searchers, who could not employ a dive team because of deep water. Searchers instead used both video and sonar to capture images of the lake floor.

On Monday they completed a sweep of that area and expanded recovery efforts Tuesday, focusing on clear, shallower areas that are safe for divers but more difficult to clear with an ROV.

Today’s search brought the addition of a 60 percent smaller ROV from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Lake Patrol Division. More agile for navigating rugged terrain than the ROV in use for the last five days, this ROV, Admiral explained, can approach cliff walls without stirring up as much sediment, which helped searchers to discover Burke’s body.

Burke’s body has been taken to the Coconino County medical examiner in Flagstaff, Ariz., to determine more details about the cause of death, though authorities say they do not have any reason to suspect foul play.

The recovery of Burke’s remains comes after an extensive interagency search effort that spanned six days and involved vessels, a dive team, remote operated vehicle specialists and law enforcement.

Burke, described as “just the best friend anyone could ever have,” by Dixon and myriad others, smiled warmly at everyone he encountered and made even passing acquaintances feel like they were dear friends. He had an unquenchable thirst for life that permeated every aspect of his existence. A longtime ski instructor and kayak instructor who children and adults alike flocked to, the Haslett, Michigan native graduated from nursing school this past spring and had aspirations to become a life coach. A mosaic of Burke’s friends and family have been sharing thoughts, photos and videos of Burke on a Facebook group page: It has become a small but glorious testament to some of the incredible facets of Billy Burke and the vast array of people who cherished him.

Read The Planet’s tribute to the always smiling, immensely loved Billy Burke here.

Billy’s friends will gather 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15 at Mike Yokel Park. All are welcome. An official memorial will be planned for a later date.




About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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