Search for man in Mississippi continues

Fire Dept.: Interagency collaboration big help

Search for man in Mississippi continues

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Wednesday began day two in the search for an unidentified man last seen Tuesday afternoon submerged in the Mississippi River near Houska Park in La Crosse.

Several agencies, including the La Crosse Fire Department and Police Department, dive rescue, two sheriff’s departments, private personnel and the military are all joining together in this recovery mission which started back up again Wednesday morning.

The La Crosse Fire Department says this kind of collaboration with outside agencies is a huge help, especially with a search in a river as big as the Mississippi.

"You can see how large the river is,” Captain Todd Adams with the La Crosse Fire Department said.

And it takes a large effort to recover a body in the Mississippi River.

"Between all the different agencies, from police, fire, sheriffs, private industries to military helping out, I would say we'll have at least 10 to 12 different agencies helping out by the time we're done,” Adams said.

At a temporary command post set up on the river, search boats report back to get their assignments.

"We have grids broken off right now,” Adams said. “They'll put multiple boats with their sonar in those grid sections, and they will run a pattern to know they covered the whole area."

Those searching said the river is moving very quickly, which can move the body, and make it more difficult for boats to maneuver.

Searchers said so far, the weather has cooperated, but any storm with lightning or strong winds could shut down search operations.

Adams said by working together agencies can provide enough expensive sonar equipment for the search.

"One group themselves cannot have enough to cover the whole river,” he said.

One of the boats assisting, Bruce's Legacy, provides a $45,000 sonar system to scan the bottom of the river for the body.

"We're getting really good images,” founder of Bruce’s Legacy, Keith Cormican, said.

Based in Black River Falls, Bruce's Legacy is a nonprofit group formed four years ago in memory of Cormican's brother, a firefighter who died in a recovery mission.

"We've located 15 drowning victims all over North America,” Cormican said. “By far, the Mississippi River is one of the most difficult bodies to search in, because the current does move individuals along the bottom."

Cormican and Adams say although the work is tedious, it's worth it to find closure.

"That's the goal, to find him so everything can move on from there,” Adams said.

"It's very gratifying, you know for us to be able to help families get that closure. It really is,” Cormican said.

The fire department said the search will continue until sundown Wednesday, weather permitting.

The agencies will meet early Thursday morning to make plans and continue the search.

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