Funeral services are scheduled Thursday for 21-year-old BYU student Joshua Merkley, whose body was recovered Saturday afternoon at Rockport Reservoir in Summit County. He went missing while paddle-boarding the previous day.
“It was so hard for me to believe the gravity and the seriousness of it all,” friend Nathan Dickey said. “I had just talked to him on Wednesday, and I couldn’t believe that he could already be gone.”
Dickey was in the same MTC district as Merkley. They were both in the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission before the mission split.
Though they only met several times after leaving their missions, Merkley was always very inclusive in inviting him to do things, Dickey said.
Dickey didn’t know Merkley was missing until early Saturday afternoon, then found out later that his body was recovered.
“Emotionally I was distraught, but I felt peace and knew that everything would be OK,” Dickey said.
KC Sosa and Merkley had been friends since they met in seventh grade. They didn’t get together every day but were in the same friend groups, Sosa said.
Sosa was at the reservoir with Merkley and was the one to report him as missing. The ill-fated outing started as a five-person camping trip on Thursday night; three other people joined the group the next day.
On Friday, after the group had finished paddle-boarding, Merkley went back out on the reservoir with a friend to continue. He was not wearing a life jacket.
“The weather was really peaceful most of the day,” Sosa said. “They went out pretty far to the point that we couldn’t really see them anymore. While they were out a big wind blew in, but it didn’t seem too bad on the shore.”
The group had starting packing up their camping gear when a boat brought Merkley’s friend back to shore.
“We realized we couldn’t see Josh anymore, so we got in the car and drove to the other side of the lake to look for him,” Sosa said.
They entered the state park and spoke with the employee, who called a ranger to come help look for Merkley.
“The ranger met us at the dock and asked for information,” Sosa said. “He took off in his boat and came back and told us they found the paddle board.”
The search for Merkley continued late into Friday night. The group of friends at the reservoir grew to about 15 people, along with their parents, who stayed through the night.
Merkley was found around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, 24 hours after he was reported missing.
Sosa and a friend recently began the film business known as CaptiLife. They are making a movie in remembrance of Merkley for family and friends, who were filmed sharing photographs and memories.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, 23 July, in Layton, with a viewing for family and friends scheduled just prior to the funeral.