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Grand Forks firefighters stand by as their boat, East Grand Forks' Fire Dept.,and the Polk Co. Sheriff's office search for a missing swimmer Monday near the Kennedy Bridge. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

Officials continue search for man missing near Kennedy Bridge

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region Park Rapids,Minnesota 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
Officials continue search for man missing near Kennedy Bridge
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Rescue workers searched Monday for a missing man who was feared drowned in the Red River near a bridge that links the Grand Cities.

Two men, who said they're friends of the missing man, told police all three had swam across the river from Grand Forks to East Grand Forks, just downstream from the Kennedy Bridge. But on the return, they lost track of their friend.


Authorities have not released the names of the two friends or the missing man, but officials said he is from Grand Forks and is in his 30s.

About 1:45 p.m. Monday, a passing driver told police that a man in his boxer shorts was sitting on the Kennedy Bridge railing.

"One of them admitted to jumping into the river from the bridge," Grand Forks Police Sgt. Kevin Kallinen said. He said police are unsure if the missing man also jumped from the bridge.

Officers arrived but didn't see anyone on the bridge. They did find two men along the riverbank on the Grand Forks side who told them about their missing friend.

"Nobody at this point saw him go under or anything, but the last time they saw him he was right over there," Kallinen said, referring to the downstream area just north of the bridge. He estimated the river is 20 feet deep in that spot.

Police said the two men had been drinking. One man was seen pouring out what appeared to be a liquor bottle shortly after officers began investigating.

The search

The search focused on an area of the river just north of the Kennedy Bridge. Chief Deputy Mike Fonder said there are exceptions, but drowning victims generally sink within about 20 feet of where they went underwater.

Firefighters and officers in boats used poles to search the river, eventually using poles with chains to "drag" the riverbed.

The Grand Forks County Water Rescue team brought diving equipment to the area at 5 p.m., but the search continued by boat for the rest of the evening. Fonder said the riverbed in that area has a lot of debris and concrete, making it a dangerous spot for divers.

Fonder said divers would only go into the water if the sonar on the county's boat spotted anything that looked suspicious.

Other searchers walked along the riverbanks looking for signs of the missing man.

A bloodhound from the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department named Joker got a scent from clothing the missing man left on shore and sniffed the riverbank about 4 p.m. but found nothing. Grand Forks police later took the clothing -- a pair of black boots, blue jeans and a red shirt -- as evidence.

By 8 p.m. Monday, the man had not been found. Fonder said they'd resume searching about 9 a.m. today.

Because the man went missing on the Red River, the border between two cities and two counties, law enforcement agencies from North Dakota and Minnesota worked together.

"I think everybody's just participating here to try to make a recovery," Fonder said.

Swimming in the Red River and jumping from the bridge is illegal and the men could face criminal charges, but Kallinen said that's not a priority at the moment. "We're more interested right now in the rescue efforts, and then we'll deal with that later on if we have to."