Body of missing man found in Fresno County canal

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Authorities said the body matches the description of 74-year-old Robert Simonian, who disappeared Monday. (KFSN)

Detectives are trying to determine how a Fresno County man died after a dive crew found him at the bottom of a canal. Authorities said he matches the description of 74-year-old Robert Simonian, who disappeared Monday.

Family members embraced moments after hearing the news the body found was likely Simonian.

"He put on his backpack and was gonna do a little hike, or training for hiking, going for a walk along the canal bank here on Barstow heading toward Biola,' said Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

He apparently filled his backpack with weights to help train for a hike this week at Tuolumne Meadows. But when he didn't return for lunch, his wife got worried. That led to a search throughout the area, involving a helicopter and eventually the dive team in the water where we hear his footprints ended about a mile from his home.

"They were back peddling through the canal seeing if they felt anything with their feet. The waters not very clear right there. At about 12:50 this afternoon, they felt something on the bottom," said Botti.

Now they're trying to figure out how he got there. That includes help from homicide detectives, as a precaution.

"Right now we just don't have a lot of answers. I mean this is a path that he's traveled numerous times. And now he ends up in the canal, so we don't know if he lost his footing, if he was shoved in there. It could be a host of things, and that's why we have detectives out here to try and get those answers," said Botti.

Once the Coroner's Office does the autopsy, they should have a better idea. But family members tell me he was in excellent shape.

They are in absolute shock that anything like this would happen.

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