Authorities on Friday identified a man found dead Thursday in Orestimba Creek and believe he is the driver who was presumed to have drowned when he tried to cross the rain-swollen creek in a sport utility vehicle last month.
Stanislaus County coroner officials were looking for the family of Roberto Herrera Avila, 74, of Mexico. The coroner officials identified him using fingerprints.
Authorities had not been able to match Avila with any missing person report or to find anyone who knew him.
Deputy coroner Misty Leach said authorities believe Avila was the man who tried to cross the flooded creek Jan. 19, because he matched the driver's description and authorities found papers in the SUV that had one of Avila's multiple aliases.
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Coroner officials said Avila was a Latino with light-colored skin who stood about 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed about 170 pounds.
He was wearing blue jeans, a white undershirt, a yellow shirt with vertical blue stripes and a blue jacket with a dark-colored jacket on top of that.
Authorities believe Avila drove around road barriers and tried to cross the creek at Eastin Road northwest of Newman. The 1993 Ford Explorer he was driving was swept downstream in the torrent.
Two Newman police officers heard the man yelling in the creek and tried to save him, but the man disappeared under fast-moving water.
The Ford Explorer was spotted the next day and recovered, but the body was not found until about 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
The body was found in the dried-up creek along Crows Landing Road near Highway 33, a few miles northeast from where the driver of the Explorer disappeared.
Coroner officials ask anyone who knew Avila to call deputy coroner Misty Leach at 209-567-4500.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2394.