Sheriff: 4 likely died when SUV plunged into Miss. River

Mississippi River crash
Emergency crews work to recover a vehicle from the Mississippi River on Riverview Drive near Huff Street in Winona, Minn., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Two bodies were recovered from the vehicle, according to Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand.
Andrew Link/The Winona Daily News via AP

Recovery crews used a robotic device Monday to search the Mississippi River in downtown Winona for the bodies of two men believed to have drowned along with two others when an SUV ended up in the icy waterway.

Winona County Sheriff David Brand said his office received a call just before 7:30 a.m. Sunday reporting that tire tracks indicated a vehicle had gone into the river.

When the SUV was pulled from the water, the bodies of 30-year-old Mathew Erickson and 36-year-old Christina Lee Hauser were found inside. Erickson of Chatfield and Hauser of Winona had been seen leaving a tavern with two men, and a search team from Carver County was summoned when they could not be located, KAGE radio reported.

"We tried to find the other two," Brand said. "They're not at home. They didn't contact relatives."

The sheriff said investigators found the vehicle of one of the men near the tavern and vehicles belonging to the other two men were located at a residence.

Brand said the men may have tried to exit the vehicle when it became submerged.

"The windows were busted out," the sheriff said. "They could have been thrown out or busted out."

The car was found on its wheels in the river, and its air bags were deployed, authorities said. The car and its contents were taken to a heated garage for the investigation, according to the sheriff.

This wasn't the first fatal crash into the river in that area of Riverview Drive in Winona. Two Saint Mary's University students and two graduates drowned March 1, 1997, when an SUV missed a curve and plunged into the river.

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