MASON COUNTY, Wash. - The search has ended for a dad presumed drowned with his young son in a lake in Washington state Saturday night.
Sheldon Olsen had recently moved to Lake Limerick, Washington from Forest Grove, Ore. with his wife, Julie and son, Jace. They were celebrating Julie's birthday on the day Sheldon and Jace went missing during a canoe trip in the lake.
Searchers found Jace's body Saturday night but divers were not able to find Sheldon. The search continued until Sunday night, when it was deemed a recovery mission and eventually halted due to darkness.
"Sheldon, Julie & Jace are some of the nicest, whole-hearted, upstanding, genuine people we know. Sheldon was an outstanding father and a friend. His wife and child and faith were everything to him," family friend Kenny Larson told KGW. "Jace was a bubbly, smart, happy little boy. We watched their family grow, and saw their joy and excitement when they adopted Jace. Jace was one of the most loved little boys we knew."
The Mason County coroner said the body of 2 ½-year-old Jace was found floating in the lake at about 9:20 p.m., Saturday. He was not wearing a life jacket and the water temperature was around 40 degrees, officials said.
Sheldon, 31, has been missing since the two were last seen in a canoe on the lake. On Monday, dive teams were searching for his body in the lake in what they described as a recovery operation as he was presumed drowned. They said the search would be suspended if they don't find any clues by Monday night.
Julie told officials that Jace and his father had gone for a canoe ride at about 5 p.m. and that she had become concerned when they did not return, according to coroner Wes Stockwell.
The Olsen family had been celebrating Julie's birthday with guests at their home when Sheldon decided to take his son for a canoe ride. Friends told KGW he was a doting dad who always made time to do special things with Jace.
"Julie is a compassionate, caring, wonderful friend. It breaks our heart to know that she is going through this. They will be greatly missed. We are praying for her and her family," Larson said.
Witnesses said they saw two people in a canoe on the lake and later saw the unoccupied canoe, with life jackets still inside.
Deputy Chief Dean Byrd with the Mason County Sheriff's Office said foul play was not suspected.
"According to our investigation guests were at the house, it was Mr. Olsen's wife's birthday and it just appears to be a good day that turned into tragedy," Byrd said.
People from the family's Mormon church were staying with Julie, trying to help her deal with the tragedy.
"It's devastating, said friend and fellow church member Beth Brown, as she broke down in tears. "It's really sad to think that Julie has lost her entire family in just a moment. They were her whole world."
The Olsens' former neighbors in Forest Grove were also shaken to hear the terrible news.
"They were a nice wholesome family," a family friend and neighbor told KGW. "This tragic loss of both the husband and two-year-old child is very sad."
Sheldon had just graduated from Pacific University as an optometrist. Some of his former teachers told KGW he wanted a career that could "give back" to the community and also give him ample time to spend with his family.