Virginia Aberle age 29, of Illinois, went missing while swimming at the Wyalusing Boat Landing. On Aug. 3rd we were contacted to aid in the search on the Mississippi River in Grant County.
We drove down the evening of the 3rd and began running our sonar the next morning. Later that day we located a possible target. The Wisconsin DNR put their ROV (remote operated vehicle) in the water to see what is was. Due to a strong current they struggled in getting the ROV to the potential target before a storm came in and sent us to shore, ending our work for the night.
The following morning we put in, only to find that the potential target from the day before was no longer there. We began searching down river and later that morning we located a target that looked much better; about 300 yards down river from the first target. We marked it with our bouys and waited for the Grant Count Dive Team. By the time the divers arrived to check out our target, it was no longer there. We passed over the spot with our sonar again to find that is was no longer next to our bouy marker. As we began searching down river again, we later found another image that was obviously on the move, headed for shallow water between two islands. We had to leave that evening and get back to our real jobs.
On Aug 8th, Virginia’s mother called and asked us to come back to check out an area where a local fisherman had an image of interest on his fishing sonar. Beth and I packed up and drove the 2 ½ drive, arriving late in afternoon. We met with Paul (the local fisherman). He indicated he felt she might be submerged in a tree pile, in about 15’ of water. We ran the sonar over this area he mentioned several times. Our images clearly indicated that this was a large tree with some logs mixed in. Not the evidence we were looking for. We continued searching to find another image that looked interesting. Being it was later in the day and I decided to bring my dive gear this time, I suited up to investigate this target of interest that was in 6’ of water. The target ended up being just two logs with a branch that had long weeds entangled.
I contacted a dive friend of mine named Joe, to see if he was willing to come the following day and help as a backup diver, so I could check the large tree snag. Joe agreed and took the day off to help.
Tuesday morning we worked with Paul (the local fisherman) and his buddy Larry to get our two markers on each side of our search area. We then suited up and searched this area. I spent 30 minutes in 12’-14’ of water searching this area with no luck. We are now sure that she is not here.
The rest of the day was spent searching along the shoreline, 12 miles to a dam.
Spending 5 long days on the Mississippi River is tough. However, the toughest part is reporting into the mother and father at the end of each day without being successful. This was their only child and they are clearly determined to bring her home. It is heart wrenching.
The amount of support the family has received from this community thus far is overwhelming. Many departments coming across the state bringing boats to search, people bringing food, and motels donating rooms to volunteers. So many people with Big Hearts, joining and working together! Amazing!