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Body found in Connecticut lake near where photographer disappeared

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Eric Langlois, 33, of New Milford, Conn., was reported missing by his wife Amber, right, on June 11, a day after Langlois fell off his bike, landing in Lake Lillinonah in Lovers Leap State Park. Langlois’ wife told authorities that the father of two was able to safely reach shore after the fall, but did not return home the following day after an attempt to retrieve the bike. (Courtesy: Amber Westlake Langlois)

A body has been found in a Connecticut lake near where a photographer disappeared last week after returning to a state park to retrieve a mountain bike he'd lost a day earlier.

Officials with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said state police responded to a report of a body found in Lake Lillinonah in Bridgewater at about noon Tuesday. The body, which was not immediately identified, was spotted by a person from a dock in Bridgewater across from the lake where a search had been ongoing for Eric Langlois, a 33-year-old father of two from New Milford who had been missing since June 11.

The state’s medical examiner has been notified to make an identification, officials said.

Capt. Raul Camejo of DEEP’s Environmental Conservation Police unit (EnCon) told reporters, according to the Litchfield County Times, that it will be 24 to 48 hours before an official announcement will be made. 

“Honestly, it’s heartbreaking news to hear but I was kind of preparing myself for that. I’m disappointed.”

- Amber Westlake Langlois

Langlois was reported missing by his wife Amber a day after he fell off his bike, landing in Lake Lillinonah in Lovers Leap State Park. Langlois’ wife told authorities that the father of two was able to safely reach shore after the fall, but did not return home the following day after an attempt to retrieve the bike from the water. Officials at the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — which mounted an extensive search for Langlois on land, water and by air — announced Sunday that would scale back its search for Langlois, making periodic sweeps of the lake and the surrounding area on foot and by boat.

Earlier Tuesday, Langlois’ wife said she was disappointed by that development.

“Honestly, it’s heartbreaking news to hear, but I was kind of preparing myself for that,” Amber Westlake Langlois told FoxNews.com on Tuesday. “I’m disappointed.”

Langlois said her father has hired an independent dive team to continue searching Lake Lillinonah and the Housatonic River on Tuesday. After hearing of Langlois’ story on social media sites, the team of divers first volunteered their services on Friday and conducted unsuccessful searches on Monday. While Langlois was a “pretty good swimmer,” he may have suffered an asthma attack while trying to retrieve the bike amid fast-moving currents in the area, his wife said.

“It looks very peaceful, but it’s extremely dangerous,” she said of the 50-foot-deep waters where Langlois was last seen. “There’s all kinds of weird currents and every day we’ve been there, the body of water looks different.”

The swift water was so treacherous that large rocks were seen rolling on the lake’s bed, she said.

“And we know he was sore and may have had a concussion, so he might not have been swimming as his normal, healthy self,” Westlake Langlois said.

State officials, in a statement released Sunday, announced that the search for Langlois would be scaled back.

“Everyone at DEEP understands that this is an emotional and sad time for friends, family and colleagues of Eric Langlois,” EnCon Police said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to them.”

Authorities had previously searched shoreline areas near where Langlois was last spotted. Boat search operations, however, were hampered due to potentially dangerous currents and flood conditions. A separate search was also suspended on Wednesday due to darkness following reports on Tuesday that a man was struggling in the water.

“Everything possible has been done to find Eric or recover his body, unfortunately without the success we all hoped for,” the statement continued. “After carefully evaluating the situation, and conferring with State Police and other local and regional search partners, EnCon Police have determined that they will now scale back the intensity of the search for Eric Langlois.”

A Facebook page has been created in connection to Langlois’ appearance. As of early Tuesday, it had nearly 3,000 members.

Langlois' uncle, Peter Poulin, of Danbury, said his nephew "hit his head pretty hard'' during the accident last week.

"We don't know where he is, if he is wandering around or if he fell in the water," Poulin said, according to the Facebook page.

A candlelight vigil was held late Monday on a bridge in the 160-acre Lovers Leap State Park near where Langlois was last seen.

“Just before we left we took all the candles in the bags and threw them into the river and watched them float downstream,” Nicole Taylor wrote. “Despite working tirelessly and endlessly to bring him home, I can't tell you how surreal it still is.”

At least two fundraising sites have been created for Langlois’ wife and two children and more than $25,000 has been raised as of early Tuesday. Amber Westlake Langlois is also expecting the couple’s third child in December, according to one of the websites.

“Our hearts are breaking with each day that passes without their dad at home,” organizer Eileen Straiton wrote. “As we all feel so helpless right now, we are hoping this is another way for us to reach out and help. As many of you know, Amber and Eric are self-employed together. Every single penny donated will go to the Langlois family to help them in any way they need.”

Langlois’ wife, meanwhile, said she will not continue searching until her husband is found. They have worked together as photographers since 2008, two years after Langlois launched RAW Photo Design. She said she started tagging along with Langlois to weddings on weekends because she never saw him during the week, adding that “it was a dream” to work together as a team.

“I have to [remain optimistic] for my kids, but I am also being realistic but hopeful,” she said. “But we need him to come home, even if it’s not good news. Not knowing is complete torture. We need closure.”

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