From News10.net, C. Johnson, 6 Sept 2011.
PATTERSON, CA – A man seen driving a tractor on a road fronting the Delta-Mendota Canal in Patterson drove into the water Monday morning and didn’t resurface, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
The 10 a.m. incident was reported by a witness who described seeing the bobcat tractor go into the water canal near Zacharias and Rodgers roads. Witnesses reported the driver was not seen again after disappearing into the canal.
The driver was later identified as Ernesto Ordonez, 19, of Patterson.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, said it was unclear what caused Ordonez to drive into the canal. However, after interviewing co-workers and witnesses, it was believed that Ordonez was not wearing restraints while operating the tractor.
Christianson said the sheriff’s department decided not to deploy a dive team due to the swift water likely pushing Ordonez’ body far from the tractor combined with the high safety risk to divers. According to Christianson, the chances of locating Ordonez in the area were remote.
Ordonez’ employer later employed the services of a vehicle recovery company specializing in canal recovery operations. The team located the tractor and Ordonez’ body at around 8 p.m. about one mile south of where he went into the water, said Christianson.
The sheriff’s dive team then recovered Ordonez’ body, Christianson said.
The tractor went into the canal within a quarter mile from where a kidnapper drove himself and his 4-year-old victim into the water last January. The bodies of the boy, Juliani Cardenas, and abductor Jose Esteban Rodiguez were recovered weeks later.