A California Highway Patrol helicopter failed Thursday to find any signs of a driver presumed to have drowned when he tried to cross rain-swollen Orestimba Creek in a sport utility vehicle more than a week ago.
And all efforts to find the SUV's owner have led to dead ends, said California Highway Patrol officer Eric Parsons.
"My understanding is that we have exhausted all the leads we have at this time," said Parsons, a spokesman for the CHP's Modesto office.
Authorities believe the driver tried to cross the creek at Eastin Road in western Stanislaus County about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 19.
That section of road near Newman was closed because of flooding. Authorities believe the man drove around the barriers, ignored the flashing warning lights and that his 1993 Ford Explorer was swept downstream when he tried to cross the creek.
Two Newman police officers checking the creek for flooding heard a man yelling in the creek near Eastin Road. They tried to save him, but the man disappeared under the fast-moving water.
The top of the Ford Explorer was spotted the next day after the creek had receded.
The Department of Motor Vehicles lists a Merced post office box as the address of the Ford Explorer's registered owner.
Parsons said officers checked the street address on the paperwork filed for the post office box, but the address does not exist. Paperwork in the SUV with a Newman address also failed to lead officers to the SUV's owner.
The CHP has not released the name of the SUV's registered owner but has checked it against several driver's licenses in the area with the same name. But none of these men owns the Ford Explorer, Parsons said.
And as of Thursday -- 10 days after the driver is presumed to have drowned -- no one had filed a missing person report.
Parsons said there is no evidence of foul play, but he said the case is perplexing.
"A case like this -- where no one has come forward and all the leads lead to a dead end -- it does happen, but it's rare," he said.
He said the helicopter searched several miles of the creek downstream from where Eastin crosses Orestimba Creek.
CHP officers will continue to check the creek periodi- cally for the missing man.
Stanislaus County sheriff's Lt. Mike Parker said it's a possibility the Sheriff's Department dive team could search the creek after its waters calm.
But he said it's impractical and potentially unsafe for the divers unless they have a specific area to search.
"Based on how fast the water was moving and the rains that week, he could be anywhere," Parker said.
The CHP asks anyone with information about this case to call officer Tom Olsen at 545-7440.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.