Four People Missing in Boating Accident
DRESBACH, Minn. (AP) -- Rescuers continued the search on Sunday for four people who disappeared into the swirling water near a dam on the Mississippi River in Winona County, but are presuming all four to be dead after finding nothing more than life jackets and shoes. With the civil air patrol overhead and seven boats in the water, authorities turned up three life jackets and three pairs of shoes that relatives confirmed belonged to the missing boaters, but didn't find any bodies,
Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said. "With all the searching we've done we would have found them (if they were alive)," Brand said. Officials said the missing people are a family from St. Paul. They are Cha Kong Yang, 34; his fiance Cee Her, 34, and her two young children, Amanda Xiong and Josh Xiong. Rescuers in the boats dragged about a quarter-mile of the river near Lock and Dam No. 7, Brand said. Authorities called off the search at sunset and are asking for volunteers to assist when the search resumes at 7 a.m. Monday.
"All we can do is just pray and hope that they're found so we can lay them to rest," said a relative, who would only identify herself as K.T, one of more than 30 family members and friends who gathered on the river banks Sunday to watch the search. According to relatives at the scene, Her was pregnant and the couple has six other children from previous relationships that did not make the fishing trip. The family borrowed a fishing boat and had spent an earlier part of the day fishing in Wabasha, according to Yang's brother Xiong Yang, 47, of La Crosse, Wis.
Mike Bakke of Sparta, Wis., was fishing from another boat about 30 feet away and said it appeared that the party packed up to leave and hauled in the boat's anchor at around 5 p.m. Saturday. Bakke said it appeared a fishing line or anchor rope may have gotten tangled in the boat's propeller, and the man in the other boat struggled in vain to start the motor. The fierce current sucked the boat into the dam structure, forcing the boat up against a massive concrete wall. The people in two nearby boats tried to help and threw a rope to the struggling boat, Bakke said. He said it appeared the boat would be pulled to safety. But as soon as the rescuers started to pull with their boats, the other boat and its four occupants sank. "They went down instantly," Bakke said. "The boat disappeared and the four people disappeared."
Officers were called at 5:35 p.m. and found the boat quickly but saw no sign of the boaters. Authorities pulled the aluminum fishing boat out of the water at 6:40 p.m. "I wish we would have found them so we would have had a happy recovery," he said. "It doesn't look good now."