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Search for man who might have jumped from Kennedy Bridge continues today in GF, EGF

Joe Marciniak had burs on his shoelaces Tuesday morning. He had walked through the undergrowth on the muddy shore of the Red River looking for his friend, Delano Gaking.

River search
Emergency crews scour the Red River for a young man that may have jumped from the Kennedy Bridge into the Red River between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Joe Marciniak had burs on his shoelaces Tuesday morning. He had walked through the undergrowth on the muddy shore of the Red River looking for his friend, Delano Gaking.

"With this current, you don't got much time," Marciniak said. "If he got any mud in his lungs -- you know, from water -- he would drown right away."

With his arms folded, Marciniak watched emergency crews in boats use underwater sonar to comb the river below the Kennedy Bridge that links Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. The search began after a motorist called 911 at 6:22 a.m. to report seeing a person outside the railing on the north side of the bridge.

"All I seen was a guy in a blue, hooded sweatshirt standing on the outside of the bridge kind of rocking back and forth," Jeff Schemionek said.

Schemionek told police he saw the person and drove past, then looked back and didn't see the person there. "I just keep kicking myself I didn't turn around and go back and check on him or something," he said.

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Schemionek said he did not actually see the person drop from the bridge into the river 25 to 30 feet below. Authorities do not know of anyone who did, but they believe searching the river is a reasonable step.

"We need to check, and we just -- we need to make sure," said Cpl. Thomas Inocencio of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department.

Officers arrived on scene within three minutes of the 911 call and did not find anyone in the water or the surrounding area, but items on the bridge led them to believe the person seen outside the railing was 19-year-old Gaking.

'Who knows'

Marciniak said Gaking, who came here from Devils Lake, had been staying with him at his apartment in Riverside Manor, which sits along the river immediately south of the bridge in Grand Forks.

"He was a good friend, and he had a hard time growing up," Marciniak said. "I was one of his best friends."

Marciniak said Gaking liked to read. "He was reading a few books on how to prevent suicide."

Officers came to Marciniak's door Tuesday morning, asking if he knew Gaking. They had Gaking's stocking hat, CD player, headphones and CD case.

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Marciniak, 23, said he last saw Gaking about 5 a.m. when Gaking had come home after sobering up from drinking. Gaking was in a good mood, but Marciniak was upset. He was missing $100 and blamed Gaking.

"I just chewed him out bad," Marciniak said.

After that, Gaking told Marciniak he was going for a walk.

"'Better be a long one,'" Marciniak said he told Gaking.

Gaking left but didn't say anything about jumping from the bridge.

"Who knows," Marciniak said. "I could have saved him."

Marciniak said Gaking was bipolar and was not on medication or in counseling. He would sometimes stay awake for 30 or 40 hours then sleep for a day, Marchiniak said.

"He has lots of mood swings. In the morning, he can be happy; three hours later, he can be depressed," Marciniak said.

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Police are asking people to call the department at (701) 787-8000 if they saw anything unusual near the bridge early Tuesday or if they know where Gaking is.

"If he would have got out, he would have sure gone to my place. That's the only place he could go, and he wouldn't have left his stuff on the bridge," Marciniak said.

The search

Agencies from both sides of the river sent a total of five boats to search the water, initially using sonar and later dragging the river.

"For the first hour the body is in the water, there's a chance of survival," said Dave Manthei, training officer for the Grand Forks Fire Department. "If we started dredging earlier, we could actually do more harm to the body. We usually don't start until two hours into the search."

Searchers extended their efforts about a half mile downstream from the bridge, but mainly focused on the area just below the bridge. That area is about 37 feet deep, said Inocencio, who leads the Sheriff's Department's water rescue team.

"The water's cold, it's deep, and the current is moving fast," Inocencio said.

At 6:15 a.m., the river stood at 29.55 feet (28 feet is considered flood stage), according to the National Weather Service. The water temperature at that time was 49 degrees, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The search ended for the day at 5 p.m. with plans to resume at 7:30 a.m. today.

"We're halting the search for rescue safety," Manthei said. "There's no chance of survival now."

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