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January 23, 2001|Staff Writer

CALEXICO — After his family spent weeks looking for him, the body of a Calexico man was found Friday in a canal west of here.

Francisco Javier Aviña, 37, of Calexico jumped into the All-American Canal Dec. 26 in an apparent attempt to commit suicide.

His mother and family had been looking for him since.

"We got help from the IID and the city of Calexico, they helped us … Yesterday some Border Patrol agents found him in a canal next to the (Calexico) airport," said a friend of the family Saturday. She declined to be identified.

County Sheriff's Office divers were called about 9 a.m. Friday to retrieve a body after it was found in the All-American Canal. It turned out to be Aviña.

Aviña had been walking along the canal with a friend Dec. 26 when he told the friend, "See you on the other side," apparently making a spiritual reference, and jumped into the water, said county Coroner's Office Investigator Gary Hayes.


He surfaced once, then disappeared under the water, Hayes said.

Aviña's family filed a missing person report with the Calexico Police Department and had been looking for him since Dec. 27.

Aviña's sister, Mayra Aviña, of El Centro, expressed frustration with local officials for their reluctance to search for her brother. She said it wasn't until the night of the Dec. 27 that police agreed to look in the canals for her brother.

"My mother, she went to the canals every day, every night, to pray and to search for the body. She never saw nobody searching for him," Mayra said.

Hayes said the sheriff's dive team had been out several times looking for his body, as had other officials.

Mayra Aviña said the Mexicali Fire Department learned of her brother's disappearance and called to offer their assistance in searching the canal.

"I don't know who takes care of those canals … I think they should clean up those canals. That way if something happens again they can find the body," she said, explaining there are piles of trash and tires along the canal banks and in the water, particularly in the canal near Hems Bros. Mortuary. That made traversing the canal banks difficult.

Known as "Frank" or "Woody" to his friends and family, Aviña worked as a mechanic, made signs and worked with a local bail bondsman. Her brother had a drinking problem, Mayra Aviña said, but was well-liked.

"He had so many friends in Calexico and throughout the Imperial Valley," she said.

Staff Writer Marcy Misner can be reached at 337-3441.

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