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Kevin Bonham, Forum News Service, Published June 13 2013

Authorities test new tactics for finding farmer lost in April flood

MINTO, N.D. — Law enforcement officers searched the silt-laden banks of the Forest River and an unnamed creek Thursday, probing the tall grass, trees, brush and mounds of debris, looking for clues that might lead them to the recovery of the body of Guy Miller, 55, the farmer who is believed to have drowned in floodwaters April 29.

But after more than six hours, about 10 members of the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s Emergency Response Team failed to find the flood victim.

“It’s a real disappointment,” Walsh County Sheriff Lauren Wild said, “but it was worth the effort.”

Troopers searched both sides of the creek and river from a bridge near the spot where Miller’s pickup was recovered up to Minto, a distance of about two miles by road, but at least four miles along the winding river course.

They marked spots along the way. Places they thought deserved closer examination.

“They’re looking for anything, a piece of clothing, a shoe, anything that would indicate he was there,” Wild said.

Team members have extensive training and years of experience in search, rescue and recovery, according to Capt. Bryan Niewind, Fargo, who is the team leader.

Miller was driving a white pickup April 29 when floodwaters washed the vehicle off a gravel road about three miles west of Minto.

Witnesses saw him on the truck and talked with him by phone, but could not reach him in the rushing water. After a friend left the scene to get help, Miller apparently was washed away.

The vehicle, which got hung up on a bank and was partially submerged in the coulee, since has been recovered.

Wet weather has hampered search efforts over the past six-and-a-half weeks, with the Forest River approaching or exceeding flood level of 6 feet in Minto on three separate occasions.

The river was about 2.7 feet below flood stage Thursday.

Authorities have conducted air, ground and water searches, using dive teams, personal watercraft and other search and rescue equipment and methods, according to Wild.

A few weeks ago, the Grand Forks County Water Rescue team placed a mannequin into the river, to see how it would react to the then-fast-flowing floodwaters. It was recovered.

Authorities also placed four rubber tire inner tubes in the river near the point where the pickup was recovered, to see if they would make it to the U.S. Highway 81 Bridge in Minto without being held up by trees or debris.

One of the tires reportedly washed up onto a farm field. However, the others were not found.

Wild said the sheriff’s office had no immediate plans for another organized search, adding that officials will discuss options.

“At this point, we just need some luck,” he said. “This has been a long, difficult time for the family and for everyone involved.”