Missing man: Nothing found in searches of James River near KensalCommunity members gathered near a bridge over the James River Thursday with tears in their eyes after more than seven hours of dragging the bottom of the river turned up no trace of a missing Kensal area man. Josh Blahna, 26, has been missing since Sunday. Footsteps from his parked car led investigators to a shoe his mother later identified as her son’s, said Mike Tufte, Foster County sheriff.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
FOSTER COUNTY, N.D. — Community members gathered near a bridge over the James River Thursday with tears in their eyes after more than seven hours of dragging the bottom of the river turned up no trace of a missing Kensal area man.
Josh Blahna, 26, has been missing since Sunday. Footsteps from his parked car led investigators to a shoe his mother later identified as her son’s, said Mike Tufte, Foster County sheriff.
Crews are searching a stretch of the James River at Highway 9 to about five miles north of Arrowwood Lake. The search is in an area about 10 miles northwest of Kensal.
Blahna’s white 1992 Buick was found less than a third of a mile from the James River off to the side on his mother’s driveway, Tufte said. Footprints in the grass to a barbed wire fence led to a site on the river where a white athletic shoe was found.
The car had a flat left rear tire and no drugs or alcohol were found inside, he said.
“One can assume it (the shoe) was stuck on something. If not it would be floating on down to Jamestown,” said Aaron Abaurrea, a Carrington fireman who found the shoe around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The GPS signal from Blahna’s cell phone also stopped transmitting early Monday morning within a third of a mile from the river and his car.
On Monday family and friends started to search the area and on Wednesday the Foster County sheriff was notified.
“We’re looking for a missing person and we don’t know if he is in there (the James River) or not,” Tufte said.
Between 12 and 15 ATVs were deployed Wednesday searching the shore for any signs, he said.
“We had four-wheelers to beat the band,” he said of Wednesday’s search efforts. “We had Carrington Fire Department on a few of them; we had (state) Game and Fish (Department) on a few of them and of course neighbors, three of them.”
Strong winds and river currents Wednesday kept most crews out of the water.
After authorities investigated the footprints Thursday, crews from the Jamestown Dive and Rescue Squad combed the waters dragging the bottom with 12-foot-long poles with grappling hooks attached.
This is the first time in recent history where the Jamestown Dive and Rescue squad searched a fast-moving river, with cold water temperatures, said Jim Reuther, Jamestown fire chief.
“The river search is always tougher, definitely,” Reuther said.
Dive crews stayed out of the water because of the fast current and undertow, he said.
The Jamestown Dive and Rescue Squad could return to Foster County if requested, Reuther said.
Other agencies involved in the search include the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the Carrington police and fire departments, Kensal Fire Department, New Rockford Fire Department, Stuts-man County Sheriff’s Office, Devils Lake Dive and Rescue Squad, the Civil Air Patrol and the Dakota Territory Search Dogs.
Blahna is “just a 26-year-old kid,” said Ken Kollman, a family friend from Buchanan.
He worked part time farming for his father and he also worked on wind towers, Kollman said.
Blahna lived mostly with his father but also with his mother and he more recently was staying with a friend in Jamestown.
The last person to have seen Blahna is a man from Jamestown, Tufte said.
Members of Blahna’s family declined to comment.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org