The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 24, 2013

Update: Rising river makes search difficult

Missing kayaker a popular teacher, coach


Jensen said he didn't know exactly where the three men started their trip, but he did know it was somewhere along the Cottonwood River. That river empties into the Minnesota River a few miles west of Courtland. Jensen also didn't know where the men planned to end their trip.

The work Jensen and the others are doing is appreciated by friends and family in Watertown, Janke said. Robyn Fritze is still there waiting for news. Several staff members from St. Martin's school met Monday morning to discuss the situation.

"I met with all the teachers who could make it," Janke said. "There were a lot of tears, but we also talked about God's promises.

"We appreciate all the efforts everyone is putting in to find Stephen."

The area where Fritze was last seen by Carter and Buri is a hard turn in the river where debris, such as large tree branches, have been gathering for years, said Les Zwach, manager of the River Ridge Gun Club.

"Every year, when the river floods, it seems like there's more debris," he said. "The problem is, when the river gets somewhat high, you don't realize how much debris is under the water. A lot of it is just a couple inches below the water. Before you know it you can be all snagged up in it.

"I just hope some good can come of this. The river is very unpredictable and it can be very dangerous."

Zwach had left the gun club a few minutes before Carter and Buri walked up from the river bank looking for help. There was a group of people still shooting when the incident was reported at about 8 p.m. with a 911 call, Zwach said.

Carter and Buri were wearing life jackets when the kayaks capsized. Fritze was not. He was last seen holding a kayak and floating through some branches before the current took him under water.


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