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October 22, 2014

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Body recovered from Lake Mead identified as drowned airman

Staff Sgt. Antonio Tucker

Staff Sgt. Antonio Tucker

The body recovered Wednesday from Lake Mead has been identified as 28-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Tucker, the National Park Service announced Thursday.

Earth Resource Group, a Las Vegas-based search and recovery organization, had been looking for Tucker, who officials believed had drowned in June 2012.

The group started its search Monday within a nautical mile of the point where Tucker was last seen in Boulder Basin, officials said.

Using sonar, searchers discovered what appeared to be a body Tuesday, but law enforcement divers contacted to retrieve the body had to postpone the recovery because of high winds.

National Park Service and Metro Police officials recovered the body about 10:50 a.m. Wednesday.

Tucker was swimming June 23, 2012, in Boulder Basin at Lake Mead when he went missing, authorities said. He was a drone crew chief for the 432d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Creech Air Force Base.

News reports at the time said Tucker left a woman and a toddler on a 21-foot rental boat when he went for a swim, according to park rangers. High winds may have caused Tucker — who was not wearing a life vest — to drift too far from the boat, sending him under the water, Creech officials said.

The woman called 911 around 2:30 p.m. June 23. The U.S. Coast Guard and Lake Mead rangers began search and rescue, which continued until the afternoon of June 24, when the operation changed to search and recovery after authorities presumed Tucker had drowned.

“As a commander, this is one of the worst calls you can get, that you lost an airman in a tragic accident,” said Col. James Hecker, 432d Wing /432d Air Expeditionary Wing commander.

Tucker joined the Air Force in October 2001 and came to Creech in August 2008. As the crew chief at Creech, Tucker oversaw the management and maintenance for the Predator and Reaper unpiloted drone aircraft.

Tucker had been deployed five times, including to Afghanistan and other undisclosed locations. He had been stationed in Alaska, England and Korea before being assigned to Creech.

Tucker received several decorations during his 11-year military career, including the Air Force Expeditionary service ribbon with gold border, the Afghanistan Campaign ribbon and the Good Conduct Medial with two devices.

Staff reporter Paul Takahashi contributed to this report.

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