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Kevin Bonham, Forum News Service, Published June 25 2013

Minto farmer, presumed drowned in floodwaters, missing since April

MINTO, N.D. — Some 140 friends and family members answered the call Tuesday to search for the body of 55-year-old Guy Miller, who is believed to have drowned April 29 when his pickup was washed off a country road during spring flooding.

Word of Tuesday’s search, which ultimately was unsuccessful, spread like wildfire on social media after Kelly Schanilec, Miller’s sister, posted the River Walk for Guy event last week.

“It was amazing, as far as the people who came together,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how this small community organized it. We had about 140 here, but they weren’t all walkers. If they couldn’t walk, they brought food or they were praying.”

Minto is a town of about 600 in Walsh County, about 30 miles northwest of Grand Forks.

Sheila Slominski, a Grafton, N.D., resident, was one who had to be there.

“I feel so bad for the family,” she said. “My sister drowned when she was 33. She was in a car accident and the car ended up upside down in the water.”

Her sister, Michelle Sweeney, Manvel, N.D., was killed on Halloween 1995 near Mentor, Minn. Emergency crews were able to recover her body, she said.

“We were able to find closure,” Slominski said. “I just want the same for their family.”

Miller was driving a white pickup 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.

Volunteers gathered at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Minto Community Center for instructions and a prayer, given by the Rev. Joseph Christensen, spiritual director and chaplain at St. Gianna’s Maternity Home in nearby Warsaw, N.D.

They wore chartreuse T-shirts emblazoned with the logo, “River Walk for Guy” on the front and the “River of Suffering” prayer, written by St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish priest.

Then, teams of 7 or 8 volunteers fanned out along both sides of the Forest River, searching thick woods and underbrush in sweltering weather for about six hours, starting about one mile southwest of Minto, where a June 14 search conducted by the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s Emergency Response Team left off, to Lake Ardoch, about 8 miles to the southeast.

“It was kind of brutal, between the wood ticks and poison ivy,” Schanilec said. “One got sprayed by a skunk.”

Each team was accompanied by an ATV, along with water, mosquito spray and other supplies.

Schanilec conceived the River Walk for Guy idea after the June 14 search, which was confined to areas west of Minto.

“They were saying there’s a 99 percent chance he’s on that side,” she said. “I just thought what if he’s that 1 percent that made it to the other side.”

Walsh County Sheriff Lauren Wild said there no current plans for additional searches.

“They didn’t find anything, but it wasn’t for lack of trying,” he said.

“We’re totally disappointed,” Schanilec said. “With all the prayers and all the searchers, we just thought we’d find something. We need to just figure out the next step. I don’t think we’ll ever give up.”