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  Thursday September 18th, 2014    

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River claims 3, 1 still missing (01/08/2014)
By Amelia Wedemeyer

Photo courtesy of the Winona County Sheriff's Department
     Following the fatal car crash Sunday, law enforcement officials worked to extricate the vehicle and victims from the Mississippi River.

Using sonar equipment, rescue workers yesterday located the body of 28-year-old Blake Overland, who had recently moved to Winona from Stewartville, in the Mississippi River, approximately 70 feet from the site of the early Sunday morning car crash that claimed the lives of Overland, Christina Lee Hauser, 36, of Winona, and Matthew Patrick Erickson, 30, of Chatfield. A fourth individual, Andrew Kingsbury, 29, of La Crosse, Wis., is still missing, and officials are currently searching the area of the Mississippi River where Hauser’s SUV plunged into icy waters.

“We’re just hoping and praying that we find Andrew Kingsbury today,” Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, the three men were seen leaving a local tavern with Hauser at 1:20 a.m. Sunday morning. At 7:19 a.m. a man driving down Riverview Drive near Huff Street called the Sheriff’s Department and reported seeing tire tracks consistent with a vehicle going over the Mississippi River dike. When authorities got to the scene, the ice had already frozen over the SUV, but the right-front tire of the vehicle, as well as a purse and personal items, were found scattered on the surface of the ice.

Hauser and Erickson were found buckled in the driver’s seat and front passenger’s seat, respectively, after the SUV was pulled from the river. Their bodies were sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for autopsies.

The SUV had right-side damage, the front driver’s side door broken off, and broken-out windows in the back of the vehicle. Authorities said they found vehicles belonging to the other victims parked near the tavern.

“Every rescue worker is working very hard for closure,” Brand said of the crews who braved freezing temperatures in order to recover the victims.

The Winona County Sheriff’s Department received assistance from the Carver County Sheriff’s Department, the Winona Search Operations Assistance and Rescue (SOAR) team, and the Winona Search and Dive Team to locate the body of Overland. On Tuesday, the Olmsted County Underwater Recovery team, along with a few people with specialized underwater camera equipment from Black River Falls, aided in the search for Kingsbury.  

 

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