Virginia Aberle Search Update

Virginia Aberle Search Mississippi RiverVirginia 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!

Virginia Aberle Search

Lake of the Woods Search

Lake of the Woods Search

On October 3rd, tragedy struck. The Lake of the Woods Sheriff’s office was notified of three missing men on Lake Of The Woods in Baudette, MN. 28-year old Keith Ayers, 24-year old  Cody Ostendorf, and 22-year old Justin Haugtvedt, all of Baudette, were last seen on Friday October 2. The trio was last seen leaving a resort on Oak Island in a 16-foot boat on their way to nearby Flag Island. Their capsized boat was found Saturday afternoon. Since then, 2 of the men have been recovered, but Keith still remains missing. 

Lake of the Woods search Bruces LegacyLake of the Woods marinaI had been shopping for a better boat to run our search operations from and with the help of our local Coop Credit union we made our decision to get this done sooner, rather than later.  I was planning on waiting until early spring but then we heard about the three missing young men up in the Lake of the Woods.

There was a Hewescraft boat dealer that had just what we were interested in and after some phone calls, we made the purchase. I then contacted the Lake of the Woods Sheriff who indicated they had exhausted all there resources and he would be willing to share his information with us. I then contacted the mother of Keith Ayers. She had traveled to Minnestota from Pennsylvania the day after she heard her son was missing. She said she could not leave without finding her son.

I then began to make the final arrangements and on November 18th, Beth and I traveled to International Falls MN to pick up the new Hewescraft boat. The weather was raining and very cold. I needed to outfit the boat with some electronics and our sonar gear so I ask the owner Rob, if he’d lend some space in his shop so I could do so.

Friday morning we arrived at the shop and he had two of his mechanics help me out with setting up the boat for our equipment. Four hours later, Rob of Baduik Equipment would not charge me for their labor and thanked us for what we do. What an amazing dealer!

Now it was snowing for our 4 hour drive to the Northwest Angle. There’s nothing like driving a new boat through a snow blizzard to break it in. Upon arriving we met with Keith’s mother and her fiancé in Roseau and followed them to Young’s Bay Resort.

Friday the 20th we focused our search in the area the first man was found. We only found an ATV with nothing else of interest.

Saturday the 21st, we woke up to a frozen Marina. We had to chop ice from around the boat to let it free. By the time we got everything loaded, a couple of boats had came in and broke a path for us to get out. We ended up with an interesting image that needed to be checked out. While at the resort for supper I ran into a local guy, Scott Kempenich. He’s working in the Northwest Angle and knows the lake very well. When I asked him if he could help out, he didn’t hesitate.

Sunday morning we were again frozen in. We chopped the boat loose and again there were some locals able to brake up the ice for us to get out. The winds were much worse and getting good images was not going to easy. We needed to put our dog cage on this particular target so we could then dive down to see what this image on our sonar was. The winds made the task of getting our dog cage close, very challenging.

The dog cage is a known target that shows up on sonar very well. We work this to our target so we can follow the line down to determine just what it is. This process allows for safer and more efficiency when sending a diver down to check out an object. The diver simply follows the line down to the cage, which we try and get within 10′ of our target.

With Scott and John’s help we finally got on it. The target of interest turned out to be a jacket that was hung up on a tree limb. This was identified by Keith’s mother to be Keith’s jacket. We found Keith’s jacket within 100 yards of where they found the first missing fisherman. By this time it was about dark and it was Scott’s knowledge that navigated us back to the resort safely.

Monday the 23rd it warmed up some and the ice in the marina was not as thick. The winds had calmed down and Scott was back to help Dave and I. We had another target of interest that we wanted to check out. It went much better without fighting the wind. We located this target only to find a tree stump that didn’t have anything around it. We then finished out the day running sonar without any other interesting images showing up.

We are able to tell Keith’s mother that he is not in this area anymore. We check every square inch up and down of this particular channel.

The hardest part of this is to make a decision to end the search. Coming into this 49 days after the accident was a long shot. But if you don’t try how will you know?

Lake of the Woods Bruces Legacy2 Lake of the Woods Marina Bruces Legacy

The search for Joe turns up car dumping ground in Mississippi River

While scanning the Mississippi River with sonar, looking for missing Minneapolis man Joe Zurnieden, we found 11 cars in a 7 mile stretch of the river. Within a 60 foot radius we located 6 cars; an apparent dumping ground.

This is what the 6 cars look like on our sonar imaging. 1 car is laying partially on top of another.Minneapolis Cars2 Keith, Dave and Jeremy loaded up dive gear with an attempt to identify the vehicles and see if any human remains were still inside or find clues as to why there was a cluster of cars in a small area. Looking at a google earth map of the area, one can see there is a parking lot directly above the long, steep embankment for people using the city trail system. This was the probable ‘launching’ area explaining a partial How the vehicles got there. As to Who or Whom and Why they are there remains to be unseen. Once we set anchor over top of the cars, the plan was for Keith to dive down into the darkness of the Mississippi waters to locate each car and describe as best he could what he was seeing. Using a full face mask with wireless communications to the surface, made the task so much more efficient and helped with safety. We were able to speak back and forth making notes on each car. Keith identified a red Firebird, white Chevy van among other details and license plate numbers. All details and license plate information has been turned over to the Hennepin County authorities.

Spartan helmet Hubcap Spartan Helmet Wheelcover

Keith & Dave

Keith & Dave

Dave holding us in Lock #1

Dave holding us in Lock #1

Lock #1 & Spillway

Lock #1 & Spillway

Video and article from Beth McDonough & Channel 5 News

Looking for Joe Zurnieden



Today Keith and Scott are on the Mississippi River once again. Joe Zurnieden has been missing since July 1st. His wife Katy is understandably looking for some answers for herself and her children. We are hoping to help by using the side scan sonar in finding Joe. The river is very tricky with wing dams and locks and varying depths but with persistance and a bit of luck the aim is to find Joe.


2 cars found in the Black River in LaCrosse

When we were on the Black River searching for Shalim Shahjehan Augustine, we found several other items of interest. It’s common for us to see items on the side scan sonar imaging that are interesting and clearly out of place with the bottom of the river or lake. The water is a dumping grounds for so many items that people decide to dispose of.

Scanning the river near a boat launch along the Clinton Street bridge we saw a large object. It was unclear exactly what the item was but it was obviously big; possibly a boat. It didn’t give an image a car typically will. As you can see from the photos the top of the vehicle has deteriorated. This is why the sonar image was a questionable.

Bruce’s Legacy located the objects and gave the location information to the LaCrosse Dive Unit. They wanted to do the recovery of the vehicles. We traveled to LaCrosse so we could see what we had found with the sonar.

We were told it was an old Chevy van last registered in 1981. Dated too far back for there to be an active record of the owner. It’s possible this is Scooby Doos’ Mystery Machine.

Click on the images for an expanded view

The second car we located was underneath an old paddle boat parked along the river bank at Copeland Park. It was upside down, laying on its roof with the front of the vehicle facing the shore line.

Pulling the second car out posed some challenges in part of a steep wall and shoreline with large boulders. We waited around for several hours while they attempted to pull the vehicle out of the water. Unfortunately so much time had passed while they struggled to extract the vehicle, we decided to leave as it was getting late into the evening. Hopefully we will have some photos of the second car to post and share.

Here is a link to video while there….


Tainter Lake capsized boat leads to unnecessary searching for crews

tainter lake

Several different crews and individuals had been searching for a missing boater when a capsized boat was found on Tainter Lake in Wisconsin. The Dunn County Sheriffs department has confirmed the identity of a Boyceville man as the owner of the boat found capsized in Tainter Lake on July 4th.

Jacob Wyss of Boyceville claimed the 12′ jon boat was his after he was contacted by the sheriffs dept. Monday, July 7th. Wyss claims he didn’t leave the boat capsized and doesn’t know how the boat ended up where it was found.

Bruce’s Legacy put in several hours on the water Sunday, July 6th to aid in the search of a potential missing subject. Keith Cormican, Nick Gebhardt and Dave Whitehouse used the side scan sonar to scan the area of Tainter Lake where the boat had ben found.

Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith and crew were an absolute pleasure to work with. It’s unfortunate they are put in a position to look for someone that isn’t actually missing. It’s deplorable if it’s found this gentleman is untruthful regarding his knowledge of his capsized boat.  The amount of effort, expense and mental drain exhausted on these scenarios may seem routine to the general public but that’s far from the truth. Almost every search we’ve been on has included firemen, police, emts’, volunteers etc who while NOT on duty, still feel obligated or a desire to help aid recovery efforts.

Fortunately no life was lost and the searchers were all safe at the end of the day. Kudos to everyone who sacrificed their 4th of July weekend to search.

Winona County Sheriff Brand

Winona Sheriff Brand deserves a huge amount of credit for the continued effort in never giving up. He had called in more help than any other search that I have seen in just over 20 years that I have been involved in Public Safety Diving. It was his effort in reaching out as far as he could to help the Kingsbury family today. “Great Job Sheriff Brand”
Photo: Winona Sheriff Brand deserves a huge amount of credit for the continued effort in never giving up. He had called in more help than any other search that I have seen in just over 20 years that I have been involved in Public Safety Diving. It was his effort in reaching out as far as he could to help the Kingsbury family today. "Great Job Sheriff Brand"

David Allen Hartke Search and Recovery

David Allen Hartke UTV Lake Ponderosa Montezuma IowaDavid Allen Hartke UTV Lake Ponderosa Montezuma Iowa













By JoDee Brooke of the Banner Journal

        Bruce’s Legacy Director Keith Cormican and fellow diver Ed Davis wasted no time in heading to Montezuma, IA, to assist in the recovery of a 57-year-old man who had gone through the ice on Lake Ponderosa while riding his UTV. The man and a fellow fisherman friend were headed back off the ice Saturday (Dec. 14 around dusk. The first machine made it to shore. The second machine was following behind when the front end of the UTV dropped through the ice about 100 yards from shore. The two friends grabbed hands as the machine fell into 14 feet of water.

“There is no dive team in that county,” explained Cormican. “From what we were told, the 9-1-1 call came in around 6:30 p.m. The first dive team from two counties away arrived around 10 p.m.  They only had a couple of divers trained for ice diving, which in this case by now was a recovery.”

Two other dive teams showed up by Sunday and continued searching until Monday. They had located the UTV but not the fisherman.

A friend of the family contacted Cormican Monday morning conveying the initial dive teams had done all they could do. Poweshiek County Emergency contacted another dive team from southern Iowa. Team members arrived from Red Oak, IA, Monday afternoon.

“I knew the body had to be within 20 feet of where he went through,” explained Cormican. “I talked with members of the other dive teams, and they explained they had little visibility and almost none once they stirred by bottom of the lake. In any ice conditions, there should be some visibility if they just swim along the bottom.”

Emergency management placed a call to Cormican Tuesday morning asking him if he could assist. Cormican and Davis arrived later Tuesday afternoon after traveling icy roads and coming upon semis in the ditch.

“I kept thinking, they’re going to call any minute and tell us they found him.”

“I talked to the other divers when we got there,” said Cormican. “We knew the UTV ‘dirt-darted’ into the dirt. The other divers had opened a door on the UTV and found nothing, all the while thinking it was a two-seater. They told me they’d cleared, which means no one was in the vehicle.”

Cormican said he has a real hard time going to sleep at night until he’s recovered any body he’s been called to help recover. As he continued gathering information, he noticed a UTV similar to the one the victim had been riding. It had four doors and a back seat. He also remembered one of the earlier divers saying they’d seen an ice auger in the back seat.

“They had only cleared the front seat,” explained Cormican. “Tuesday night, they went back out there, and we found him in the back seat of his UTV. The water’s force pushed him into the back seat and prevented

him from being able to get out.”

“It was a sad deal,” shared Cormican. “the family had to go through a lot. The divers exhausted themselves and they could have died. A lot was learned, though.”

“If we wouldn’t have gone down there, those other divers would have been packed up and gone home,” Cormican said. “We’re just there to help these dive teams.  We’re not there to take anything away from any other divers. You learn over the years. I’ve been there, but you learn.”

Cormincan said the ice thickness of five inches probably wasn’t thick enough to sustain the machines’ weight.

Bruce’s Legacy continues to seek donations to help fund an ROV -remotely operated vehicle.

Utilizing an ROV will allow for the deployment of a machine into the depths instead of a diver. This method is safer and more often less time-consuming. This efficiency is important when trying to cover a body of water. It’s also crucial to know exactly what questionable objects are so divers can be certain what the objects are.


Ice Fisherman’s Body Found – David Allen Hartke

The search for David Allen Hartke,  who fell through the ice on Lake Ponderosa near Montezuma ended successfully with his recovery Tuesday evening.

David Allen Hartke Ice Fisherman Found

According to Chris Widmer, chief, Montezuma Volunteer Fire Department, divers located David Allen Hartke, 57, Grundy Center, at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. Hartke reportedly fell through a weak spot in the ice on Lake Ponderosa while ice fishing Saturday evening, Dec. 14. The Ranger and ice hut he was using also fell into the lake.

The initial dive teams had located both the Ranger and the hut Saturday night, but the Ranger was resting on its roof in approximately 14 feet of water.

After four days of divers searching the area, they located Hartke inside the Ranger after they were able to roll the vehicle over.

“The search wouldn’t have ended successfully without the help of the divers who volunteered their time,” Widmer said. Dive teams from Johnson County Metro Dive Team and the Central Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue team arrived on the scene on Saturday evening. Divers with the Midwest Regional Dive Team continued the search on Monday.

Bruce’s Legacy, a not-for-profit search and recovery organization from Wisconsin arrived Tuesday evening and will remove the Ranger from the lake Wednesday.

“The overwhelming support of area volunteer firefighters, the Lake Ponderosa community and area businesses were invaluable throughout the four days,” said Trisha Rooda, Poweshiek County Emergency Management Coordinator.

Article from:

Hampton Iowa – Second Return to Ice Dive

November 21st and 22nd we traveled to Hampton Iowa to look for the missing man, Eathan Kazmerak. Once we arrived back home our post processing produced a target of interest. The shape in the sonar imaging too closely resembled that of a body.

Phone calls and emails were relayed with Story County in Iowa to go over to the pond and dive. However the cold weather produced enough ice on the ponds surface they were not able to dive the pond. They didn’t have enough divers certified in ice diving.  We felt strongly enough to make the 8 hour roundtrip back to Iowa and dive ourselves rather than wait until spring for the ice to thaw.

Arrangements were made with local law enforcement for an enclosed trailer to be heated. Given the low temperatures this helps tremendously while suiting up for a dive below the ice.

Hampton Chief of Police Mr. Schaeffer, Franklin County Sheriff Richtmeier, and Franklin County EMA Coordinator Mr. Craighton helped make the necessary arrangements and stood on the ice with us the entire time. A testament to their dedication and fortitude to help the Kazmerak family. It wasn’t exactly 75 degrees and sunny on 7 inches of ice.

Using GPS coordinates from the original sonar image, we placed ourselves in the general vicinity of the intended target. Then a triangle was cut in the ice with a chainsaw to allow access for the diver. Using a search and recovery designed ‘search pod’ below the ice, on the pond bottom; helped facilitate search patterns. Our pictures don’t have the search pod visible but this device works extremely well.

Keith suited up to make the dive. After coming upon some concrete blocks, it was assumed this was the object we were after. Concrete blocks sound less than exciting however it still provides hope for the family Ethan will return home and clears our conscience that it wasn’t a body that we left behind in late November.

Our sonar equipment is phenomenal and the images are equally fantastic. Yet, we come across so many objects that are intriguing but we cannot ascertain exactly what they are. These are sonar images; not digital images like that of your camera. That is why we are actively seeking donations to help fund an ROV -Remotely Operated Vehicle.

Utilizing an ROV will allow us to deploy a machine into the depths instead of a diver. This method is safer and more often less time consuming. This efficiency is important when trying to cover a body of water. It’s crucial to know exactly what these questionable objects are so we can be certain it’s not the victim or evidence we are after.

If you would like more information about our organization feel free to contact us.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-42790600-1', ''); ga('send', 'pageview');