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River search continues as family of fourth victim waits in anguish in Winona

  • Article by: Curt Brown
  • Star Tribune
  • January 10, 2014 - 10:50 PM

As dive teams and search dogs combed the Mississippi River near Winona for a sixth day, Teresa Pederson says she’s stuck in a surreal sense of limbo. Her youngest brother, Andrew Kingsbury, is believed to be the fourth victim in a deadly accident last weekend.

He was with a couple of friends who met a woman at a downtown Winona tavern, leaving the bar at 1:15 a.m. Sunday. Minutes later, her sport utility vehicle crashed through a guardrail, vaulted over some rocks and broke through the ice. Two bodies were found strapped in the vehicle. Search teams found a third body in the river Monday, while Kingsbury’s family has kept a vigil all week — ­supporting a cast of volunteer searchers.

“You should be grieving, yet it’s hard to grieve without having him,” Teresa Pederson, the oldest of four siblings, said in an interview Friday. “So you kind of grieve for the other families, and we’re stuck in limbo right now. We’re just waiting for him.”

She attended the funeral service Friday for Matthew Erickson, her brother’s friend since kindergarten. Kingsbury, 29, grew up in tiny Peterson, Minn., and attended Lanesboro schools with Erickson and was living in La Crosse, Wis., working as a journeyman carpenter. Blake Overland, whose body was recovered from the river Monday, was a year younger than them in school.

Authorities say they met the driver, Christina Lee Hauser, for the first time that night at the bar, and they left together. Pederson said her family is not focusing on the crash. They’re trying to support the countless volunteers trying to find her brother.

“We’ll focus on ourselves and Andrew later,” she said. “That grief will come. But right now we’re just in awe and amazed by how much ­generosity everyone in the community is showing.”

Volunteer search teams from Carver, Hennepin and Olmsted counties and crews from Winona, Wisconsin and Iowa have all helped with the search. When she went to get food for the volunteers at the Winona Hy-Vee grocery store, “as soon as they heard our last name, they said: ‘We’ll take care of it.’ ”

Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said it’s possible Kingsbury was able to escape the vehicle, found with broken windows 20 feet deep in the icy river.

“If he was alive, he could have tried swimming for a short time and got caught in some current,” Brand said. “I’m sure he’s in there.”

There’s been no activity on Kingsbury’s cellphone and family members have not heard from him.

“They left the bar together,” said Ron Ganrude, Winona County’s chief deputy. “I hope he wasn’t with them, but that likelihood is very, very, very remote.”

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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