Kayakers searching for another body in the Cuyahoga River on Monday found that of Ratna Mahat, 62, of Akron, who had been reported missing May 31.

Mahat’s body was found in the Chuckery Area of the Cascade Valley Metro Park in Akron’s Merriman Valley. His clothes had become entangled in branches.

Foul play is not suspected, and there are no signs of external trauma on the body, Gary Guenther, an investigator with the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, said Tuesday.

Mahat, who was among the many Bhutanese refugees who lived in Akron's North Hill neighborhood, did not return home from a walk May 31, prompting a family member to report him missing that evening, Linda Goeke, a refugee advocate, said Tuesday.

Goeke said family members and friends looked for Mahat that evening — last Friday — and Saturday, searching the neighborhood and the park, a place where Mahat would often go on his walks.

Mahat and his wife, Rana, settled in Akron in December 2017 after living in a refugee camp in Nepal, where he was a leader in the camp community. In North Hill, he lived with his son and daughter-in-law and their three children.

"He was such a kind, compassionate man," Goeke said, noting he enjoyed helping to care for his grandchildren.

Goeke, a volunteer with the nonprofit Crossings of Akron, said Mahat's family has received some 1,000 telephone phone calls from people concerned about him.

"He was obviously very well respected," she said.

Authorities on Tuesday continued to search the river — also in the Chuckery Area — for the body of Catelino Hernandez, 24, also a resident of North Hill.

He was swept away Sunday evening in the strong current after trying to help a family member.

The three cousins went to the Cascade Valley park to swim or play around in the water, family members said.

The cousin Hernandez was trying to help was able to get to the bank and get out of the river — which was high and fast moving after recent rain.

On Tuesday, members of Hernandez’s extended family and friends gathered in a parking in the Chuckery Area as they did Monday.

“We’re staying strong,” said Karen Fuentes, one of the family members.

Hernandez is from Guatemala and came to the United States about six years ago. He worked at the Alside window factory, earning money to support himself and send to family members in Guatemala.

The parking lot has served as the staging area for the search.

On Tuesday, six members of the Akron Fire Department's division of Swift Water Rescue Team searched the water in pairs, checking in pockets of the river that were inaccessible Monday because of the strong current and high water, Akron Fire Department Lt. Rob Keener said.

“It’s still roaring, but it’s slower than it was yesterday,” he said.

The park district advises against going in the river in the park.

The currents can be stronger than they appear, and it is easy to lose one’s footing on slippery rocks, a park district spokeswoman said Monday. The depth of the river ranges from than 1 foot to 9 feet, she said.

In late June 2011, a kayaker found the body of Hilda Iris Colon Saldana, 50, of Akron, about four weeks after she was swept away while wading in the river in the Chuckery Area.

The Akron Fire Department and park rangers had conducted multiple searches. Heavy rains contributed to the rapid waters and made the footing treacherous, authorities said at the time.

 

Reach Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.