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The body of a 79-year-old Town of Wheatfield man, missing since he was last seen raking leaves in his back yard almost three weeks ago, was recovered from the Erie Canal by divers Sunday afternoon.

Members of the North Tonawanda Fire Department dive team pulled the body of Robert H. Brandel, of Lockport Avenue, from the canal just after noon. A passer-by had spotted the body floating in the water and notified North Tonawanda police.

Authorities had spent two full days searching for Brandel, missing since March 29 from his home, which borders Tonawanda Creek. Police had speculated that he may have fallen into the creek, but family members said he was healthy and questioned that scenario.

North Tonawanda Fire Chief Gregory Frank directed the recovery effort. Niagara County Sheriff Thomas Beilein expressed his gratitude to all the public safety and emergency personnel, as well as private citizens, who took part in the search for Brandel.

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