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Mike Nowatzki, Published February 23 2009

Divers to keep eye out for missing woman during training exercise today in West Fargo

WEST FARGO - Underwater divers with Valley Water Rescue will be keeping an eye out for missing Thief River Falls, Minn., woman Gina Anderson while conducting a training exercise at a West Fargo pond this afternoon, the group’s president says.

Pete Fendt says the group will begin drilling holes in the Rendezvous Park pond in the Eagle Run area of West Fargo at about 3 p.m.

Anderson’s father, Steve Lappegaard, told The Forum Saturday that the park is of interest because witnesses told authorities they saw a woman matching his daughter’s description near the pond about a day after Anderson disappeared.

Anderson was last seen Oct. 23 leaving her home in a yellow Pontiac Sunfire.

She left her purse, credit cards, identification and important anti-seizure medication behind.

Fendt said he has talked to Thief River Falls Police Chief Kim Murphy a number of times about the pond.

“The family kept kind of pushing us just to go out there and look at it, so he asked if we would, and that’s the reason we went out to look at it last week,” Fendt said.

Fendt said he and three other members found no signs of a car driving into the pond. About two-thirds of the shoreline is covered in brush and the other one-third is sand and gravel, he said.

“The ground was so wet last fall, it would have left great big ruts anyplace that somebody would have tried to drive across there,” he said.

Contrary to some reports from family members, Fendt said the pond was not searched with underwater cameras.

While out at the pond last week, Valley Water Rescue members decided it would be a good location for a training exercise, he said.

Two holes will be drilled today, and divers will practice search patterns and recovery techniques.

While divers won’t actively be searching for Anderson, Fendt said, “There’s always a possibility. It’s just that that’s not our focus today.”

Fendt said the pond is an out-of-the-way location that is unknown to many people in the metro area, let alone someone from Thief River Falls.

West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said the Police Department’s involvement today at the pond will be limited to scene control.

West Fargo police received a few tips following the first reports that Anderson was missing, but officers were unable to substantiate them, Reitan said. A car similar to Anderson’s was found, but it belonged to someone who lived in the Rendezvous Park area, he said.