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Published August 17 2007

2 more bodies recovered from bridge collapse site

MINNEAPOLIS – Searchers found two more bodies amid the interstate bridge collapse wreckage, officials said Thursday, pushing the official death toll to 11 and leaving only two people still missing.

The bodies of Vera Peck, 50, of St. Anthony and Christina Sacorafas, 45, of White Bear Lake were recovered from two vehicles pulled out of the Mississippi River, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office announced.

One of the vehicles was pulled out Wednesday evening, the other before dawn Thursday.

“Obviously, we are in the mourning mode right now,” said David Chit, Peck’s ex-husband. Peck had been in a car with her 20-year-old son, Richard Chit; his body was recovered over the weekend.

The Rev. Paul Paris, pastor at the church Sacorafas attended, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis, said it was a relief that her body had been found. Sacorafas had been driving to church to teach a Greek folk dancing class the evening of the bridge collapse.

“At least they know,” Paris told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “That’s the big thing. They know.”

The other two people on the list of known missing are Scott Sathers, 29, of Maple Grove and Greg Jolstad, 45, of Mora.

Navy divers continued to work the scene Thursday, as did the construction crew that was using cranes to remove large chunks of bridge debris. Randy Mitchell, a spokesman for the dive team, said the operation was shifting back and forth between diving and debris removal.

“The infrastructure of the bridge is creating problems for them to get into areas and locate other vehicles,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the two most recent sets of remains were found in cars that divers got to only after cranes moved debris out of the way.

“They weren’t freely accessible,” he said.

While the two teams of eight divers each have been somewhat limited by the need to rest occasionally, the removal of debris has been happening more or less around the clock for the past few days, Mitchell said.

The size of some of the pieces of debris have forced construction crews to at times use torches to cut the chunks into smaller pieces so they’re not too heavy for the crane to lift, Mitchell said.

Once a sizable portion is out of the way, divers will “go in and reassess that spot,” he said.