JERRY HOLT ¥ 8/9/2007---Officials carry the body of victim up the embankment on the north side of the river around 12:30pm on Thursday. The body was taken of a boat and transported by the medical examiner. Bridge Collapse

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune


Peter Hausmann, of Rosemount, was on the 35W bridge when it collapsed. His body was recovered from the river on Thursday.

Courtesy Assurity River Group,


Friends and family gathered to bid farewell with balloons to bridge collapse victim Sherry Engebretsen at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, Minn.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

More victims identified Thursday

  • Article by: David Chanen, Curt Brown and Mary Lynn Smith
  • August 10, 2007 - 10:24 AM

A 47-year-old man who apparently tried to rescue people nearby after his van plunged into the Mississippi River when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed was among three victims pulled from the wreckage Thursday.

Peter Hausmann, a father of four from Rosemount, survived the collapse and escaped from his van into the murky, turbulent waters, according to a source involved with the investigation. In the resulting chaos, he apparently swam toward victims in another vehicle in an attempt to render assistance, the source said.

Hausmann's body was recovered late on Thursday morning, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner.

Divers found the remains of two other people, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said Thursday evening. The source indicated that the other remains were those of Sadiya Sahal, 23, of St. Paul and her 22-month-old daughter, Hana.

Meanwhile at 1:15 p.m. today, U. S. Secretary Of Transportation Mary Peters will visit the Metro Transit bus garage in Minneapolis to announce new federal support for transit operations designed to deal with the collapse.

While some families received grim news Thursday, police chaplains and mental health workers began the delicate job of informing waiting families that only partial remains of their loved ones might be recovered.

"That's difficult to try to discuss with the families. They hope their loved ones will be recovered and they can have a burial or memorial," Minneapolis police Capt. Mike Martin said.

The county medical examiner, Andrew Baker, said Thursday that officials are collecting dental records and other information from families to try to make identifying remains easier, though he said that it may become more difficult to positively identify remains after they have been in the water for so many days.

Hausmann spent about three years doing missionary work in Kenya and maintained ties to Africa, working on AIDS projects and building a church. If he was trying to rescue someone, it would be typical of Hausmann's selflessness, his friends and co-workers said. "Pete is the type of guy who would do anything to help someone," said Jeff Olejnik, Hausmann's boss at Assurity River Group in St. Paul.

Another friend echoed that sentiment. "That would be Pete," said Gerry Fisher, a friend and former co-worker of Hausmann. "If there was a last act of Pete on this Earth, that certainly would be consistent [with who he was]."

Hausmann's empty van was pulled from the river on Sunday.

A Somali community leader, Abdisalam Adam, spoke to Sahal's father, who confirmed that Hana's body had been recovered and that the medical examiner was still trying to scientifically identify the mother's remains. On Thursday night, a Sahal family member declined to comment, but said: "It is time for grieving."

The death toll now stands at eight from last week's collapse. The list of the confirmed missing now includes Christine Sacorafas, 45, of White Bear Lake; Vera Peck, 50, and her son Richard Chit, 20, both of Bloomington; Greg Jolstad, 45, of Mora, and Scott Sathers, 29, of Maple Grove.

Victim, wife met in Africa

Hausmann, a South Dakota native, was a devoted father, working long hours in his job as a computer consultant at Assurity River Group but finding time to shuttle his children to their activities, said Patrick Schreier, a close friend of 15 years. He met his wife, Helen, in Kenya in the 1980s, where he taught at a mission school.

"They were a family who used the dining room all the time. ... Whenever you went over there, you would plan to stay for dinner because you would always be invited," Schreier said.

Fisher said he didn't doubt that his friend would have helped someone at his own peril. "When times would get tough, he was the one you would want on the front line. ... So if he saw someone in distress, I have no doubt at all that he would reach out and try to go that extra step, even if it put himself at risk."

Sahal and her daughter were traveling from St. Paul to a restaurant in the family's Toyota Highlander when she called family members to say she was in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That was the last anyone heard from her. Sahal was five months pregnant, expecting her second child with husband Mohamed Sahal.

Naomi Ryman only knew Sadiya Sahal for the eight weeks she taught her nursing-assistant classes at the International Institute. She beamed at the June 16 graduation, which little Hana attended.

"She was a confident, bright, friendly and often smiling young woman who seemed to be able to negotiate well between both cultures," Ryman said.

Sahal had immigrated from Somalia in 2000, graduated from Washburn High School and become a U.S. citizen last year.

Ryman has a handwritten essay Sahal wrote in February that talked about how happy she was to have her driver's license and a car with which to give rides.

"Her paragraph read: 'I am going to get a lot of opportunity in the United States, such as education, peace and better life. I am very happy.' "

Staff writer Bill McAuliffe contributed to this report. Curt Brown • 612-673-4767 David Chanen • 612-673-4465

M.L. Smith • 612-673-4595

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