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Archie Ingersoll, Published July 15 2009

Searchers resume looking for missing Grand Forks swimmer today

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Emergency personnel are still looking for a 33-year-old Grand Forks man who was last seen swimming in the Red River.

Four boats — two using sonar and two dragging the river bottom with chains — combed the water Tuesday from the Riverside Dam to the Kennedy Bridge, which links Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter buzzed that stretch of river from above.

“We’ve been over that area pretty thoroughly,” said Maj. Mike Fonder of the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department. “With our technology and sonar, we’ve done about everything we can do.”

The search started Monday afternoon with the report of a missing swimmer. Multiple agencies scoured the river and its banks until sundown Monday and again Tuesday.

Fonder said the search will resume this morning, covering the same ground and using the same approach as Tuesday. If searchers are not successful today, Fonder said, the operation will be scaled back to periodic checks of the river.

“We’ll continue to look until the victim is recovered,” he said. “That may be several days up to a week.”

If, at any point, sonar detects an image that looks like a body, searchers would attempt to use chains to recover the object or deploy an underwater camera to view it. If appropriate, a diver would be sent in to investigate, Fonder said. So far, no divers have been used in the search.

Over time, Fonder said, the man’s body could float to the surface.

Monday, police received a report that a man in his boxers was sitting on the Kennedy Bridge railing. Officers arrived but found no one on the bridge. They eventually discovered two intoxicated men on the Grand Forks bank who reported that they’d lost track of their friend while swimming.

One of the men told police he jumped off the bridge. Police were not sure if the missing man also leapt from the bridge.

No one saw the man go under, but he was last seen just downstream from the bridge in a spot in the river that, according to police, is 20 feet deep.

At 1:30 p.m. Monday, about the time the man went missing, the U.S. Geologic Survey gauge in East Grand Forks registered a river height of 17.56 feet. Flood stage is 28 feet.

Authorities have not released the man’s name, pending notification of relatives.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.