Search ContinuesThe search continues for a 26-year-old Kensal area man who was reported missing Sunday. The Foster County Sheriff’s Office as well as various agencies including the Jamestown and New Rockford fire departments and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service searched land and water Friday for Josh Blahna, a native of the area.
FOSTER COUNTY, N.D. — The search continues for a 26-year-old Kensal area man who was reported missing Sunday.
The Foster County Sheriff’s Office as well as various agencies including the Jamestown and New Rockford fire departments and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service searched land and water Friday for Josh Blahna, a native of the area.
Blahna’s 1992 Buick was left with a flat tire just off his mother’s driveway and not far from the James River about 10 miles northwest of Kensal. An athletic shoe of his was found near the river Wednesday afternoon.
Foster County Sheriff Mike Tufte said Friday he wasn’t sure how Blahna ended up missing and hadn’t ruled out foul play.
Blahna worked part time for his father and also on wind towers. Not showing up for work or turning up missing is out of character, said his friend and former fiancé, Jen Schultes of Fargo.
Schultes and Blahna dated on and off through and after high school. They met in 1999 and attended prom together twice. Even though they broke off their engagement, the two communicated regularly. Schultes said she texted Blahna on Sunday and everything seemed normal. He sent her his standard reply, “cool, cool,” she said.
“He’s still my best friend, no matter what,” Schultes said.
Family members said they were optimistic as boats dragged treble hooks across the bottom of the river and Molly, a bloodhound from Dakota Territory Search Dogs, sniffed for the scent of human remains.
Rains Wednesday and Thursday made Molly’s search more difficult, said her owner, Denny Adams. Adams, of Conde, S.D., has searched for missing people with dogs like Molly for 22 years. Rain may wash away evidence and scents, he said. Plus, poor weather conditions make work more difficult for animals and people.
“When you’re uncomfortable, you’re not at your best,” he said.
But receding water and mild wind speeds Friday may have helped.
Authorities from the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office and North Dakota Crime Bureau also took Blahna’s car into custody to search for fibers, signs of struggle or a possible suicide note, said Dave Orr, Stutsman County sheriff.
Authorities and neighbors investigated the area by foot and all-terrain vehicle. Some volunteers didn’t know the family, but helped anyway, said Suzie Mathwich, Josh Blahna’s aunt. One volunteer, a banker in the area, had even flown his personal aircraft to assist the search, she said.
Foster County Emergency Manager Dale Townsend said he hadn’t requested assistance from the Civil Air Patrol because of poor weather.
“We don’t know if he’s in the water, everyone assumes he is,” Adams said.
Eight members of Jamestown Fire Department Dive Squad had searched Thursday upstream of the car and downstream of where the shoe was found. Searching for a missing person in a river is like searching for a needle in a haystack, said Lt. Mike Dronen of the Jamestown Rescue and Dive Squad.
Unlike a lake or a slough, a river current can pull a person almost anywhere, he said. After seven hours, the team was called off and didn’t return Friday, however some members of the fire department did.
“If it was my son or something,” said Jamestown Fire Chief Jim Reuther, “I’d want to do a thorough search.”
As of Friday night rumors have circulated that Blahna has been found, these rumors are false.
“It’s all false if he’s been found I’d sure like to know where,” Tufte said.
The search is planned to continue today.
Family and friends asked members of the media to publish pictures of Blahna, in case readers had recently seen him.
Anyone with information may call the Foster County Sheriff’s Office at 701-652-2251.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org