Winona County authorities were back on the Mississippi River Monday, looking for a missing Winona State University student last seen more than a week ago.
Chukwudi "Ben" Onyeaghala, 19, was seen Oct. 7 on video, walking along the street near the Winona State library. He was reported missing on Oct. 10.
Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude said a report of an encounter with a boat owner early the morning of Oct. 8 has authorities worried that Onyeaghala may have fallen into the river.
The sheriff said last Friday, Winona police showed searchers a video, showing a young black male walking on the sidewalk down to the Mississippi river levy early in the morning on Oct. 8.
"We got more information and wound up talking to somebody that was on a boat down there," Ganrude said in an interview Monday.
The man said he was sleeping when he heard someone come onto his boat. When he opened the boat's cabin door he saw a black man on his boat who he then asked to leave.
"The man basically said no. So the boat owner then closed the door up to the cabin and just waited for the man to leave," said Ganrude. "He said he might have been on the boat 15 minutes or so, and then after he felt the man had left his boat, a few minutes after that, he heard a splash."
The sheriff said the boat's owner thought maybe the man had thrown something off of the craft into the water, but didn't find anything missing later. Ganrude said there were some shoe marks on the boat — another indication that it may have been the missing student he saw on the boat overnight.
Using sonar, divers and cadaver dogs, the Sheriff's office searched the area around the boat, starting Friday, over the weekend, and again Monday. KARE-TV reported his parents, from White Bear Lake, were in Winona and talked with school officials on Saturday.
"We're out with five boats again today, basically checking from Winona all the way down to the Trempealeau dam," said Ganrude. He said they're dragging the river now, and will use divers if the sonar spots anything suspicious.
The sheriff said they're not 100 percent certain that the man in the video or the man reported on the boat was Onyeaghala, and he's asking anyone who might have any information about where he might have been or what might have happened to him to contact authorities.