Six days after 94-year-old Donald Byron Bishop of Lompoc went missing, his body was found Wednesday afternoon in the Santa Ynez Riverbed south of Highway 246, according to the Lompoc Police Department.
Bishop disappeared while on a regular walk last Thursday afternoon near his residence near the intersection of Laurel Avenue and First Street.
At the time, police said Bishop typically walked near his residence or at Beattie Park or River Park.
His was found Wednesday afternoon after a helicopter searched from above, and the circumstances do not appear suspicious, police Capt.. Kevin Martin said, adding that the family had been notified.
Police searched the area, especially focusing on the riverbed, while using all-terrain vehicles, trucks, drones and officers.
Community members concerned about the missing man also undertook their own searches and created a Facebook page that had nearly 273 members as of Wednesday afternoon.
On Wedneday afternoon, Bishop’s son, Brian Bishop, told Noozhawk his dad was familiar with the riverbed after taking regular walks down there. The father and son hiked the riverbed as recently as a month ago.
Brian Bishop recalled that every time he thought they had been blocked by fencing in the area, his dad confidently pointed out access points.
“He knew every hole in the cyclone fence,” Brian Bishop said. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Dad, I think we’re locked in here.’ He said, ‘No, no, no. There’s a hole we can crawl through that’s here.’”
Brian Bishop added, “It was amazing.”
Donald Bishop was a World War II veteran who served in the Navy from 1942 to 1945, and later became a professional motorcycle racer for six years, his son added.
He also raced Bonneville cars, setting three land-speed records, his son said.
Bishop worked for Lockheed Corp. for 30 years as a fabricator until his retirement from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1990.
But he remained active in his hobby of making and flying model airplanes, including fabricating each part.
“He makes every single part of these model airplanes, and they’re remote control and they’re antique,” Brian Bishop said. “He machines the entire engine, I mean everything — crank case, pistons, rods, head, the whole thing.
Donald Bishop traveled across the United States for competitions with his handcrafted model airplanes.
“That’s what’s kept him going these last 25 years,” Brian Bishop said, adding that his father stopped competing approximately two years ago. “He’s sharp that way, as far as being a machinist and sheet-metal fabricator.”
Brian Bishop, who lives 500 miles north of Lompoc and traveled to his parents home to be with mother, was gratified at the widespread effort and positive energy from the Lompoc community to find his father.
“There’s are a lot more people on board than I would have ever imagined,” he said.
He also expressed appreciation for the Police Department’s efforts.
“I’ve got to tell you that the Lompoc Police Department has just been stellar to work with,” Bishop said, adding that they explained about the search efforts and kept the family informed.
“I can’t thank them enough or express my gratefulness for how good they’ve been through this whole thing.”