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Team uses 'mini-sub' in underwater search for Gina Anderson, vehicle

Gina Anderson

A team of deputies from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office in Duluth using a high-tech mini-sub searched the Thief River on Sunday in Thief River Falls looking for any sign of Gina Anderson and her car.

Anderson, 32, last was seen Oct. 23 driving her yellow Pontiac in the city of 8,000.

Jim Van Schaick, the Thief River Falls Police investigator heading up the case, said about eight officers from Duluth volunteered to bring the remote-controlled underwater vehicle to look for Anderson.

They began a little after noon, using first a small sonar device on a stick to find any likely object that called for the mini-sub. The hand-held sonar device, put through a small hole in the ice, can pick up items within 90 meters, Von Schaick said.

One large object piqued interest, but once the mini-sub was put under the water, its sonar and video camera showed the object was not a car or truck.

"There's a lot of steel in this river," Von Schaick said, explaining that when roads and bridges were put in and repaired, old materials often were left in the river.

The water is from 8 to 16 feet deep in the areas they were investigating Sunday, Von Schaick said.

The group plans to work into the evening and to start up again early today, he said.

The city is picking up the expenses of the St. Louis County team, which volunteered its time and the expensive mini-sub, or Remotely Operated Vehicle.

St. Louis County regularly donates the use of the ROV to law enforcement water searches around the state.

Anderson's family continues to conduct its own searches on the Thief and Red Lake rivers in the city, using a metal detector and also a sonar device.

There is no information or indication that Anderson drove into the rivers, but it's an obvious place to search and all other leads have turned up nothing, Von Schaick and Anderson's family members said.

The law enforcement search will "double-check" some of the river areas searched last weekend by the family, just to be certain nothing was missed, Von Schaicksaid.

The mini-sub, which has small propellers, can produce a more complete picture of underwater areas than sonar alone can give, he said.