Sheriff: 4 likely died when SUV went into riverPublished 9:38am Tuesday, January 7, 2014
WINONA — Crews on Monday pulled a third body from the Mississippi River in downtown Winona while searching for victims of an SUV crash into the icy waterway this weekend.
The man’s body was recovered about 1:30 p.m. after sonar located the body in the same area where the SUV plunged into the river early Sunday, Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said.
An underwater robotic device was also brought in to help search for two missing men authorities believe were also in the vehicle when it went off a street and through a guard rail. Two other people drowned.
Brand said the search for the second man is continuing, KAGE radio reported.
Brand said rescuers would stay out Monday as long as possible.
“We’ll only go as long as we can handle ourselves today,” Brand told the Winona Daily News. “But we’ll never quit or give up. We need to find these guys.”
Brand identified the victim whose body was recovered Monday as Blake Overland, 28, of Stewartville. The second missing man is a 29-year-old from La Crosse, Wis., the sheriff said.
The sheriff said his office received a call just before 7:30 a.m. Sunday reporting that tire tracks indicated a vehicle had gone into the river.
When the SUV was pulled from the water, the bodies of 30-year-old Mathew Erickson and 36-year-old Christina Lee Hauser were found inside. Erickson of Chatfield and Hauser of Winona had been seen leaving a tavern with two men, and a search team from Carver County was summoned when they could not be located, KAGE reported.
“We tried to find the other two,” Brand said. “They’re not at home. They didn’t contact relatives.”
The three men had been friends since they all went to Lanesboro High School, family members told the newspaper Monday.
Hauser was an administrative assistant for Winona Health’s home care and hospice program, program director Pam Slocum said. “This was very sad news, and our thoughts are with Christina’s family,” she said.
The sheriff said investigators found the vehicle of one of the men near the tavern and vehicles belonging to the other two men were located at a residence.
Brand said the men may have tried to exit the vehicle when it became submerged.
“The windows were busted out,” the sheriff said. “They could have been thrown out or busted out.”
The car was found on its wheels in the river, and its air bags were deployed, authorities said. The car and its contents were taken to a heated garage for the investigation, according to the sheriff.
This wasn’t the first fatal crash into the river in that area of Riverview Drive in Winona. Two Saint Mary’s University students and two graduates drowned March 1, 1997, when an SUV missed a curve and plunged into the river.