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Searches still find no sign of man swept away from pickup by floodwaters

Divers and dogs searching the Park River still haven't come up with a sign of Jared Udby, the Adams, N.D., man missing since his pickup truck was swept off a road April 12 by floodwaters.

Two passengers survived. They said once the truck was spinning in the swirling, swollen river, Udby, 27, kicked out the driver's side window and crawled out, and they followed.

Greg Gustafson, 27, also of Adams and a cousin of Udby, and Ashley Blasky, 21, Fordville, N.D., made it to shore in the flooded rampaging river.

It was after 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and the gravel road down to the "Texas crossing" that normally is a graveled, rock-lined ford across the placid park was supposed to have been gated shut because of the flood. Gustafson and Blasky say the gate was partially open, said Walsh County Sheriff Lauren Wild. Their stories have been consistent, and together with what experts say about such incidents, that makes it likely Udby's body is within a few hundred feet of where it happened.

The river is down nearly to normal levels, but had been a raging torrent at the time Udby was swept away.

"A lot of earth and soil got moved in that river," from the flooding, Wild said. "There's even one small section of the river where it changed channels."

In the two days after Udby disappeared, extensive searches of the river banks found nothing and then little could be done until the water receded and divers could enter the river.

The 2008 Ford pickup truck, hung up in the middle of the river, wasn't retrieved until about two weeks later when divers could fasten straps to it from a big, tracked backhoe that lifted it out, Wild said.

Denny Adams, owner of Dakota Territory Search Dogs in Conde, S.D., near Aberdeen, brought a bloodhound up to search May 6-7, with his associate, Nolan Baldwin and his bloodhound.

Adams is well-known in this region, having spent weeks searching for Dru Sjodin's body in the winter of 2003-04. His dog, Calamity Jane, was instrumental in finding the remains of Erika Dalquist, the Brainerd, N.D., woman killed in 2002 and several other missing persons in the region.

On Saturday, a Devils Lake man brought his Newfoundland to search, said Jeff Dahlen, chief of the Park River Fire Department. The dogs didn't find anything, Dahlen said.

"We have had dive teams up here three times," he said. "And we've covered every inch of that water with people walking and probing in the water."

Volunteers, working in concert with divers, and using a tether line, walked the river for 1.1 miles from the Texas crossing downstream to the east, shoulder-to-shoulder across the stream, Dahlen said.

It's filled with rocks, barbed wire, a few downed trees but mostly with silt, Dahlen said.

It looks more and more like Udby's body may be not only under water, but underground.

"There is so much silt in that river, that the path the river takes has actually been changed because of the amount of silt," Dahlen said.

The Northeast Regional Dive Team is researching ways to search in such conditions, Dahlen said.

Nobody is giving up, as the volunteers keep Udby's family in mind as they keep checking the river, Dahlen said.

"That's what keeps us searching, to try to find them some closure."