BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) – When 52-year-old Chris Holland’s girlfriend did not hear from him last Wednesday, she started to worry. The last she heard, he was going for a walk with his friend, 59-year-old Brian Lang.
“He hadn’t called me. It’s been almost a day, that’s not right,” Richelle Garrett said.
According to Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputies, they found signs of the two men early the next morning at the edge of a ditch in Bernalillo.
“We found the clothing along the ditch bank where they had entered the canal,” said Lt. Keith Elder, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies say they believe trouble started when Lang jumped in after his dog. At some point after that, deputies say they believe Holland jumped in after him.
“[Lang] Got in trouble after he got in the water, couldn’t get out, couldn’t rescue the dog,” Lt. Elder said. “They both ended up downstream. Looks like they suffered from hypothermia and drowned.”
KRQE News 13 spoke with Lang’s friends who say he walked his dog along the drainage ditch every day. They also say he lived near that ditch bank for decades and knew it well and had even warned others.
Deputies say jumping in a drainage ditch can be deceivingly dangerous, even to the most experienced swimmers. “The debris that could be under the water could actually trap somebody and pull them under,” Lt. Elder said.
Lang worked for the Department of Game and Fish as a biologist for two decades, loved the outdoors and was a great athlete.
Holland was from Arkansas. He was visiting his mom and sister and had been in town for the past few months. Friends say Lang was his landlord.
“He always loved soccer, running, the bikes,” Tony Parana, a friend of Lang’s, said.
Holland’s girlfriend says he was also active, but deputies say the cold water and fast current were just too powerful.
“The water temperature will range from high 30s to mid 40s,” Lt. Elder said. “Even though it looks calm it’s still moving pretty quickly.”