Family: Portland man missing since September found in sunken SUV

Missing Persons

A volunteer team found an SUV in the Willamette River. Divers later recovered a body from inside

Editor’s note: Portland Police Bureau officials confirmed Friday morning Richard Ritz’s remains were found. Click here for the latest details. Earlier story below:

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A volunteer team that specializes in finding lost cars underwater believes they found an SUV belonging to a missing North Portland man. Divers later recovered a body from inside the vehicle.

Richard Ritz, 74, was last seen leaving a bar on North Lombard Street on the evening of Sept. 13, 2020. He was declared missing a few days later and police said he was likely in danger due to certain health conditions.

Ritz’s family enlisted a volunteer underwater search team — Adventures with Purpose — to search the Willamette River near the Cathedral Park boat ramp on Thursday.

Deputies with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office work to recover an SUV found in the Willamette River off the Cathedral Park boat ramp, June 3, 2021. (KOIN)

“Once our sonar boat was in the water, we identified the vehicle within 10 minutes,” said Doug Bishop with Adventures with Purpose. Bishop says the team used sonar, down imaging, side scanning and live imaging to create an “all-around feed” of the submerged SUV. Bishop said the vehicle was 25 feet below the surface on its top with the windows still intact.

Divers with the team then got into the water to check the plates. Bishop said they matched Ritz’s Toyota 4Runner that went missing along with him. Ritz’s daughter, Tina Heagle-Ritz, agreed.

A medical examiner hasn’t yet confirmed the body’s identity but his family says they believe in their hearts that it’s him.

“It’s been driving me crazy everyday, I’m constantly on my phone looking on Google to see if they found him,” Heagle-Ritz said. “It’s a relief but at the same time, but knowing I don’t have my dad anymore.”

And Ritz’s family is grateful to Adventures with Purpose for solving a big piece of the puzzle. A relative who asked to not be named said, “We got some answers. We don’t know everything yet but we appreciate them doing this for us.”

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