Police Pull Body from Canal in Modesto’s College District

At approximately 9:00am, Saturday, July 23, Modesto Police Officers pulled a body from a Modesto Irrigation District Canal at the corner of Morris and Virginia Streets in Modesto, just two blocks east of Modesto Junior College. Officers on scene said the body was of an unidentified male and there were no signs of injury or foul play.

Though there is no evidence the deceased was homeless, homeless people who frequent nearby Enslen and Graceada Parks often use the canal for bathing and cooling down from the Valley’s midsummer heat. There are also usually a few campers along the canal in that vicinity at night.

It’s not unusual for irrigation releases to catch homeless people by surprise when they camp under the bridges that span the canals. Even though that kind of location can be damp and dangerous, it’s often chosen because it’s out of sight.

MID canal at Virginia and Morris

Water in the canal is near full capacity. At that volume, the water can be colder and the current more powerful than one might expect. It’s also deep enough to be over a short person’s head. A check gate made of pipes apparently caught the body as it was propelled downstream by the strong current.

An onlooker said it appeared rigor mortis had set in when police extracted the body. That would mean death was likely fairly recently, though cold temperatures can slow the progress of rigor.

The summer heat always presents a danger for people looking to cool off in the Valley’s vast network of irrigation canals. Ordinarily, the low levels and slow flows of water present little danger, but the water quickly becomes perilous as it rises and the current quickens and cools.

Across the street from the canal, along the Virginia Corridor, a sign reads, “Never Swim in Canals.” Given the peril, it’s best to avoid entering the canals for any reason, especially when they are full of water.

Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. Good spot news reporting, with context. Nothing visible on our daily newspaper’s web site yet and I doubt that its report, whenever it comes, will be nearly as well done.

    • except its disrespectful to post pics of a diseased person like he did with shows hanging out

        • This is my son that they pulled out of the canal. This is the first time seeing this article. I had been looking for my son Jim for a week and didn’t get a call from the corener until July 30th. I have been trying to find out what happened to him. He is my everything. If anyone knows anything please please reply back.

        • I didn’t see any pictures of my son. I only saw a picture that was in the Modesto Bee of firemen getting ready to pull Jim out of the canal. I am desperate to find out how my son ended up in the canal. He is afraid of the water and had severe social anxiety. I need closure to help me put my son to rest.

  2. maybe all canals should be underground to save water and life when development happens….
    cost should go to developers and downstream water takers ONLY.

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