"That day he wanted to go out and ride the waves," said Sergeant Greg Foster with the Pennington county Sheriff's office.
Memorial day was the last day anyone would ever see 15 year old Justin Lewis alive.
Those involved in his search, like Sergeant Foster, can only speculate what happened to the athletic teen on the waters of Deerfield lake.
"Winds were sustained 40 miles an hour with 50 miles an hour
gusts, it was 37 degrees, very chilly. It appears the kayak was swamped and he
tried to swim and couldn't make it to shore," said Foster.
In the sixteen days of intensive searching that followed, there was no shortage of obstacles to hamper search efforts.
"The area is huge. We didn't know if he was on land or in the water initially," said Captain Corey Brubakken with the Pennington county Sheriff's office.
"At depth our visibility on a good day was ranging from 5–10
feet," said Rod Seals, Assistant Fire Chief and Rapid City/Pennington county Water Rescue team member.
Finally, a break: two water–trained cadaver dogs pick up a
scent two hundred feet off shore.
"We sent water rescue and within minutes we found him," said Foster.
Foster says the Lewis family never lost resolve to find Justin - one way or another.
"They held out hope for a long time, but in the last few
days they realized that we probably weren't going to find him alive. They just
wanted to recover him so they could have some closure," said Foster.
It brings some finality to the agencies involved as well ... who invested more than just time into the search.
"If it's your child, you're going to look for him until you find him. I would hope if I was in that situation, someone would have that same philosophy," said Brubakken.
An official autopsy conducted this morning reveals Justin Lewis died of accidental drowning.
Representatives from various agencies involved in the search say the total financial cost is still being tallied.