Tuesday, January 7th, and Wednesday, January 8th, we were in Winona, MN on the Mississippi River to conduct an underwater ice recovery search for Andrew Kingsbury. He has been missing since early Sunday morning. He is presumed drowned after being in the same SUV that crashed into the river and through the ice, leaving 3 others drowned. The driver, Christina Hauser and front seat passenger, Matthew Erickson where still buckled in the seats when the SUV was pulled from the river. The third passenger, Blake Overland was located Monday, about 75 feet from where the vehicle was, with an ROV used by Carver County personnel.
Conditions were frigid to say the least. We worked in temperatures -15 below, plus wind. On the first day, we found out the sonar doesn’t operate when it’s too cold. We were getting a system error about the ambient temperature being too cold. We called the sonar manufacturer and even they had no experience with this error before. It’s not typical to run the sonar under ice but we were determined to make this work. Once we had a heater running in a tent and let the TPU/Brain Box-portion of the side scan sonar warm up, we were able to start the system and operate.
Knowing that the sonar would be an immense challenge under the ice, we discussed possible scenarios to make sure we would get clear images during our operation. We decided our best option was to use chainsaws to cut a gap in the ice large enough our sonar cable could fit. The sonar towfish would be tethered by a rope to be run back and forth under the ice by 2 people. We could raise and lower the towfish to allow for different angles of view.
We proved we have a system that works to run sonar under the ice; assuming it’s thick enough to stand on. Many factors are in play when trying to get sonar imaging and the image quality we were seeing was solid. The problem we have, is the fact we were not able to find Andrew.
Our assessment after covering the area from the location of the car to the bridge, is that he is not there. The current under the ice is very strong and there is a strong possibility he is being pushed with this current.
Our plan is to go back Saturday, the 11th, assuming we have some warm weather as expected the next couple days. Down stream past the bridge, there was about 150 yards of open water. We hope this will open up some more, so we can place a boat in the water to run the side scan sonar. According to knowledgable Winona Dive team members, Tim and Judd say there is an eddy that forms in this area. This eddy could play to our favor.
The Winona County Sheriff department personnel have been phenomenal to work with as they have been in the past. Sheriff Brand is pro-active and determined to exhaust all resources. We can’t say this is the case all the time with other agencies in other states and counties. For some reason, they get territorial and this only inhibits productivity and helping the families get the resolution they deserve.
More credits go to Tony Yaeger and Bob Carpenter. They put in crazy hard work, cutting over 450′ of ice the first day. Bob then goes home that night and builds a device to assist in cutting through the ice with less effort. His handy invention proved to be greatly efficient the 2nd day!
Rob Pawluk, Nolan and Mike from the Olmsted County dive team helped tremendously with search efforts. They were getting quite a workout running the sonar towfish back and forth all day so we could get imaging.
The Winona Firemen helped the 2nd day running the towfish and cutting ice. Their job description certainly varies from day-to-day!
To the Kingsbury family our thoughts are with you. Your appreciation of our efforts is why we do what we do. Simply by your outward thanks and praise we will have no problems coming back to help any way we can. We hope we can help bring some closure so your wonderful family can get past this tragedy and start the healing process. You simply cannot plan for something like this and we will be there for anything you may need.
We hope to have a positive update to this case after saturday.