Body of missing kayaker Kevin Conley recovered from Lake Ronkonkoma

The body of 40-year-old Sound Beach resident Kevin Conley, who was last seen Aug. 13 sinking into Lake Ronkonkoma after his life vest came off, was retrieved on Aug. 23, 2014, Suffolk police said. (Credit: Stringer News Service)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Ending a nine-day search, divers aided by sonar Saturday recovered the body of a Sound Beach man who fell out of his kayak on Lake Ronkonkoma and was presumed drowned, Suffolk County police said.

The body of Kevin Conley, 40, was discovered shortly before noon nearly 50 feet below the surface in "zero visibility," said Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commanding officer of the Suffolk homicide squad.

Officials said the body was in good condition due to cold water temperatures at that depth and did not appear to be weighed down by anything.

Beyrer said an underwater search in such a deep lake was challenging. "At the bottom of the lake, there is zero visibility," he said. "There are slopes at the bottom of the lake; the lake bottom goes from 15 to almost 70 feet deep . . . There are a lot of difficulties that divers encounter."

Conley, who family members said suffered from a degenerative brain disease and could not swim well, was last seen shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 14.

Witnesses called 911 about someone in distress after seeing a kayak overturn on the lake. As Conley struggled in the water, his life vest popped off and he slipped under, police said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Harold Conley, 75, of Sound Beach had said that his son had been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, a hereditary and incurable brain disease that affects cognitive and motor skills.

Conley's mother died from the disease and his brother is in a nursing home suffering from the disorder, he said.

Kevin Conley often rode his bicycle about 15 miles to the lake to go fishing, the father said.

The youngest of four boys, Kevin Conley attended Miller Place High School and worked in a Rocky Point lumberyard and as a carpenter before going on disability, the family said.

Conley's remains were taken to the Suffolk medical examiner's office, authorities said.

County and state police conducted the search with help from the Suffolk marine bureau and emergency service section, which used a cadaver-sniffing dog.

Jason Norman, 43, of Ronkonkoma had been volunteering his time to help authorities search for the body, showing up day after day to scan the lake and shoreline with binoculars.

He hoped that Saturday's discovery would bring the family the closure it needs.

"Just thank God, finally," he said. "I'm gonna sleep like a baby tonight, I'll tell you that. I'm happy it's done."

You also may be interested in: