Team of volunteer divers solve nearly 25 missing person cold cases – and counting

Ethan Kazmerzak. Carey Mae Parker. Tammy Goff. Names may mean nothing to many people.

But for Doug Bishop, their photos and their families will forever be etched in his memory.

Bishop, 38, is the lead diver and investigator for Adventures with Purpose – a group of volunteer divers who travel across the country and search for clues underwater in hopes of solving cold missing person cases .

Using sonar equipment, the Bend, Oregon-based group said it has resolved 22 cases since its official launch two years ago.

The 10-member group consists not only of divers, but also of production crew members who film every search and rescue, posting videos on YouTube and other social media pages.

Their services are also free for law enforcement and families. The team is funded by donations.

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From environmentalists to rescuers

Bishop said Adventures with Purpose actually started as an environmental group. Founder Jared Leisek was into diving and waterway cleanup to help clean up the environment.

“His efforts led to the discovery of an underwater vehicle here in the city of Portland, Oregon,” Bishop told FOX television stations. “Then he started to focus only on removing vehicles.”

Leisek then partnered with Bishop, who owned a towing company, to begin pulling vehicles from the water for environmental purposes. They also used sonar equipment.

But one of the vehicles they pulled out contained human remains. When the news broke, people started calling the couple, thinking their missing loved ones might also be underwater.

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One of their first tragic discoveries was the body of Ethan Kazmerzak in 2020. His mother found out about the duo and asked if they could help find her 22-year-old son who went missing in September 2013.

The mother directed the men to a pond in Iowa.

“We ended up going there and working on her hunch of where she thought her son might be…we ended up finding her son,” Bishop said.

The men documented their discovery, and then requests from other families of the missing people started pouring in.

“We didn’t realize that…we’re working in a gray area that doesn’t really get done,” Bishop continued.

How the group interacts with the police

Bishop said many people assume officers send divers to search for missing people underwater, but said that’s not usually the case.

He said the use and understanding of sonar equipment is what separates the group from law enforcement. Bishop said sonar equipment can reveal what’s underwater that human eyes can’t see because it’s too dark.

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“There really isn’t a school that teaches sonar,” Bishop said, adding that he and the team had to learn the equipment as they went on missions.

Bishop said many police departments may have sonar equipment but may not understand all the technical details that go with it.

“Many agencies have reached out to me for help,” he added.

For example, Bishop said that many agencies had searched for Jed Hall in the same waters. Bishop and the team were able to track down his vehicle in Snake River, Idaho.

According to EastIdahoNews.com, the 16-year-old went missing in 2018. Human remains were found in the car and are currently being identified.

NamUS: 600,000 people disappear each year in the United States

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a branch of the US Department of Justice, 600,000 people go missing each year in the United States.

Currently, there are no well-known databases that estimate how many missing people would be underwater.

However, Bishop said he believed a large portion of those missing were deep in the country’s waterways.

“There are a lot of people missing underwater in America,” Bishop said. “I would probably estimate several thousand people.”

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“It happens all the time,” he continued. “Whether it’s an accident, whether it’s a suicide, a murder.”

Bishop said many of the cases the team has solved are accidents, but some of the findings are related to criminal cases.

Bishop added that he and Leisek had no plans to become a well-known search and rescue team.

“We developed a skill set that led us in this direction,” he said.

“I guess there is something more in the universe that has guided us together on this journey to help mend families,” he added. “We’re just good guys trying to do good in the world.”

This story was reported from Los Angeles.

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