by AMELIA WEDEMEYER
For the past week, every day beneath a darkening sky, rescue teams and volunteer searchers have continued their efforts to locate the body of Andrew Kingsbury, 29, of La Crosse, Wis., somewhere in the depths of the icy Mississippi River.
As of Friday afternoon Kingsbury’s body had not been recovered.
“These searches can wrap themselves up in a minute — sometimes you can drill a hole and find the deceased,” Mike Papke, a volunteer with the Red Cross, explained. “Or they can last until the ice breaks up. One thing about these recoveries is that you can’t predict when you will find the body.”
According to the Winona County Sheriff’s Department, Kingsbury was involved in a car crash January 5, near the stretch of road where Huff Street turns into Riverview Drive. At the time of the accident he was riding in an SUV driven by Christina Lee Hauser, 36, of Winona, along with his high school friends Matthew Patrick Erickson, 29, of Chatfield, and Blake Overland, 28, who had recently moved to Winona from Stewartville. All but Kingsbury have been recovered.
The search continues
From the elevated shoreline, family members watched from lawn chairs as cadaver dogs sniffed each of the holes that had been drilled into the ice. It resembles a pegboard that expands farther and farther down the river with each passing day.
“It’s been a very impressive effort under some very difficult circumstances,” said Papke, who was also with the Winona Police Department for 25 years. “Ice with a current moving makes it even more difficult.”
One member of the Winona Dive and Rescue team stated that the depth of river near the holes was about six feet. With a current that still flows underneath inches of ice, the task is daunting, but worthwhile.
“It’s inspiring to see people from all over the state here to help the family of this young man,” Papke said.