Divers return, find remains of 9th victim

The Hennepin County sheriff said increased current from recent rains in the Twin Cities and upstream has shifted the focus of the rescue effort from a search for victims to concentration on debris removal.

Divers searching the wreckage of the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge on Sunday found the body of Richard Chit, according to the Hennepin County Medical Center.

Chit, 20, of Bloomington, had been riding in a car with his mother when the bridge collapsed Aug. 1. His mother, Vera Peck, 50, is among the four victims still unaccounted for.

"The weather is hampering our efforts," said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek in a press conference this afternoon.

Stanek said increased current from recent rains in the Twin Cities and upstream has now shifted the focus of the rescue effort from a search for victims to concentration on debris removal.

"We're going to work as hard as we can to recover those who are missing," Stanek said.

Stanek added that some debris including personal belongings appears to be turning up downstream from the disaster site. He asked anyone who finds anything that might be related to the disaster to call the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office at 612-490-5455.

Chit was the ninth person killed by the collapse whose remains have been recovered and identified.

Relatives have said that Chit had Down syndrome and was inseparable from his mother.

Divers began searching the Mississippi River around daybreak Sunday and recovered Chit's remains about 2:30 p.m., the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office said.

"Thank God they're being able to find the remains for the loved ones," said Pat Aderman, an Andover woman who came to the Stone Arch Bridge to somberly glimpse one end of the fallen span.

Aderman, 65, said she's been praying for the families. Thirty years ago, her 4-year-old son was struck and killed by a car. It was the worst thing that a parent could endure. But at least, Aderman said, she had closure right away; she knew what had happened to her son.

"These people have no idea," Aderman said of those waiting for their loved ones to be found in the Mississippi River, and she buried her face in her hand as she wept. "I really feel sorry for them."

Divers from the Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit resumed their task at 6:15 a.m. Sunday, after thunderstorms and a nasty current forced them out of the river for about two hours early Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, cranes on Sunday hauled away one of the most visible symbols of the devastating collapse -- the school bus that carried 61 people, 52 of them children, on a field trip from Waite House, a community agency in the Phillips neighborhood. All escaped without serious injury.

Images of the bus stopped behind a burning semitrailer truck, hanging partly off of the bridge, have appeared repeatedly on television, the Internet and in the thoughts of many. The truck driver died as the children were ushered to the riverbank and safety.

"God was taking care of them because that bus could have gone right over the side," said Barb Tangen of Fridley as she stared Sunday at what was left of the bridge. "It was so close to where that semi ended up. I know God's hand when I see it."

The symbolism of that spared bus, where ordinary people took heroic measures, hit home with Laura Brown, a 53-year-old St. Paul woman and a bus aide for St. Paul School District. It has left her grateful to wake up every morning, Brown said.

"It's a sad thing," Brown said Sunday, near the recovery efforts, "but to have them all alive is a miracle. They had angels watching over them. ... "

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