Recovered: Body, belongings of Seminarian Bergkamp, drown while rescuing woman

Chris Anaya and his cousin were looking for a good place to fish on the Arkansas River near the Keeper of the Plains on Saturday afternoon when he spotted something odd.

About half of a life vest was floating in the water, with something unusual dangling from it: part of a rosary.

“It just stood out like a sore thumb to me,” Anaya said in a Facebook interview Monday about his find.

He immediately thought of Brian Bergkamp, the seminarian who went missing while kayaking on the rain-swollen Arkansas River on July 9 and was presumed drowned.

Wichita police on Monday confirmed that a body found in the river near Herman Hill Park last week was Bergkamp’s. His family was notified Friday after the coroner was able to confirm his identity, Sgt. Nikki Woodrow said.

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita said in a statement Monday that it “wishes to express gratitude to God for His abundant graces offered to strengthen all impacted by Brian’s death, to the members of the recovery team and personnel of the Wichita Fire and Police Departments, and to those others who have helped in any way throughout this tragedy.

“Brian’s Diocesan family is also thankful that his mortal remains will be able to be laid to rest and have a place at which continued prayers may be offered for his eternal well-being.

“Finally, our prayers continue to be lifted up for the consolation of Brian’s family as they take the next step to honor the memory of their son and brother.”

During their fishing excursion on Saturday, Anaya’s cousin told him to ignore the life vest. But Anaya said he couldn’t let it go. “It was speaking to me, honestly,” he said. “I just couldn’t let it sit.”

He finally called 911 to report his discovery, then went down to the water’s edge to fetch the vest and rosary from the water for the officer who arrived to investigate.

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~Matthew 25:34