Yankton Search and Rescue looks for Vermillion man

Yankton Search and Rescue looks for Vermillion man By Nathan Johnson Despite a sunny May Sunday, local search team members were unable to find a Vermillion man believed to be in the dark, muddy Missouri River.

The Yankton Area Search and Rescue Team spent most of May 22 probing the river�s shores and depths near the mouth of the Vermillion River, but it was unsuccessful in finding Ron Christensen, 57, who is feared to have drowned there after his boat was found capsized in mid-April.

�We did everything we could safely do over there,� said Jeremy Dangel, deputy director of the Yankton County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Office. �Everyone was disappointed, but, at this point, there�s very little chance of anything being found.�

The search team was called in Friday, May 20 by the family of Christensen, and team leaders spent Saturday, May 21 preparing for the effort by talking with other regional search teams who had already looked for Christensen and surveying the area by plane.

At 6 a.m. Sunday, 14 members of the Yankton Area Search Team voluntarily set out for what they knew would be a difficult day no matter what the result, according to Dangel.

The team spent the morning combing the banks of the river, searching for any clue to the whereabouts of the Vermillion man.

By the afternoon, the team decided to do some diving in areas of the river where large snags had collected.

�We poked through all the snags that appeared to hold anything,� said the team�s dive captain, Mark Johnson. �We found one large snag that was very near where his boat capsized. We thought if there was one place where he could be lodged, that would be the place.�

He said they searched the snag for about an hour. Because of the murkiness of the river, divers can only search underwater with their hands, Johnson said.

�We had to crawl our way through it with zero visibility,� he said. �I couldn�t see my hand an inch in front of my face.�

Dangel said the experience made the team appreciate how difficult the search has been in the area.

�I know there are a lot of people who are disappointed and can�t understand why there hasn�t been a resolution,� he said. �We don�t live by Niagara Falls, so they don�t see what�s so dangerous about it. But all of the search and rescue teams in the region have been there, and they all walk away with the same conclusion: There are two places that we�d like to look, but they are just too dangerous.�

Even with ropes and the employment of numerous safety techniques, it would be too easy for a diver to get hung up on a buoyancy control device and not be able to get free because of the strong current pushing against him, Dangel said.

Johnson said the team could not justify unreasonably risking the life of one of its members for what is almost certainly a recovery operation. Despite that, he said the team did everything it could to find Christensen.

�I think we made a good effort,� Johnson said. �It was good experience because of the fact that we got together, organized the search and planned what we were going to do.

�It�s disappointing that we didn�t find something,� he added. �It will be very difficult to find something now, and it would be very traumatic for just about anyone since he�s been gone for six weeks.�

Dangel said he didn�t anticipate the team returning to the area unless the family asked it to again.

�Everybody involved is frustrated,� he said. �It�s difficult to lose a family member, but one thing we generally have is a resolution. There�s a burial or some kind of service. Those people over there have not been able to walk away with that yet.�

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