Northwest Fire workers pulled a body out of the Central Arizona Project canal near the Marana Northwest Regional Airport on Thursday, March 3.
A CAP worker located the body Thursday afternoon and alerted the Marana Police Department.
“The initial ruling is a drowning,” said Tim Brunenkant, public information officer with the Marana Police Department.
Brunenkant said authorities think the man had been in the water for more than a week before he was discovered.
“We’re thinking some time the week before, possibly the 21st,” Brunenkant said.
Detectives based the estimate on the time and date on the man’s watch, which had stopped working.
Brunenkant said detectives searching the canal found other large debris, a tire for instance, that had become hung up in sections of the canal. He speculated a body also could be prevented from traveling downstream or through some of the tunnels and underpasses along the way.
Police suspect the man was an illegal immigrant from Mexico, based on the circumstances and the physical description of the deceased.
The man was estimated to be five-feet 10-inches tall, 175 pounds and possibly in his 40s. He had dark hair and a mustache and wore hiking boots, blue jeans and a long-sleeve shirt.
Police also found a pair of socks in the man’s pockets.
The man did not carry a wallet or any form of identification, Brunenkant said.
Police have started to work with the Mexican consulate to help identify the man.
CAP officials said the section of canal where the body was discovered stretches more than 19 miles. The section runs along Interstate 10 from the Red Rocks area to just south of Twin Peaks Road in Marana.
A pair of pumping stations bookend the stretch of canal.
Pumping stations are equipped with filtering and screening equipment that remove large and small debris, said Mitch Basefsky, CAP spokesman for Pima and Pinal counties. Because of these precautions, Basefsy said, a large object like a body could not have passed through a pumping station.
The canal stretches 336 miles from the Colorado River near Lake Havasu City to its final destination southwest of Tucson. Barbed wire-topped fencing protects the canal on both sides.
The average rate of flow in the canal is about three miles per hour, Basefsky said.
“It can easily overwhelm people who are not very good swimmers,” Basefsky said.
In addition, canal walls are steep and made of fortified concrete. Ladders and other structures are positioned in the canal that a person could use to climb out. Still, the canal remains dangerous.
Basefsky said CAP crews have been searching the fence lines to determine how someone may have breached the barrier and ended up in the canal.
At least two other bodies have been pulled from the canal in recent years, one in Pinal County and another near Mesa, Basefsky said.
Police said anyone who has information that could help identify the man should call 88-CRIME or the Marana Police Department at 382-2000.