MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 21-year-old Coon Rapids man remains missing Monday after he jumped into the St. Croix River in Taylors Falls in an attempt to rescue his nephew, authorities said.
According to the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office, the man who went missing is Tou Hu Vang.
The incident happened at about 4:45 p.m. Sunday as Vang and his 11-year-old nephew were fishing.
The county sheriff’s office said the child slipped and fell into the river.
“I just [took] deep breaths and don’t struggle because if I struggle I might just drown,” 11-year-old Calvin Vang said. “I just did that until someone came and got me.”
Vang and a bystander, identified as Kenphenyeehu Hawj from St. Paul, jumped into the river to save the boy. Hawj was able to get the boy out, but Vang went missing.
The sheriff’s office said search crews spent all of Monday combing the river looking for Vang, battling the raging current, high water and debris. They have not located Vang yet.
Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan is calling this a recovery effort, saying the water conditions make it unlikely that Vang survived.
Duncan said it’s not uncommon for people to fish in this area, but they should not be in the water since the current is three times as fast as usual for this time of year. And that’s not just the St. Croix but many lakes and rivers in the state.
“I know our boats are having a hard time,” he said. “We’re snagging everything that’s at the bottom of the river so it’s pretty fast.”
Vang is engaged, planning to wed his fiancée in September. His sister said he just finished his first semester at Anoka County Community College.
“(He’s) very funny, outgoing. He’s just very loving, you know,” Darra Vang said. “I don’t know. I’m just very close to him so it’s hard for me.”
“I don’t know how to describe him,” Patty Vang, Tou Hu’s sister, said. “He’s just awesome, he’s always so happy and so giving, everybody loved him.”
The dangerous water conditions have made the search efforts more difficult. Crews say they’ll stop the search at 6 p.m., as the threat of thunderstorms loom and regroup on Tuesday.
Duncan said it’s likely that Vang’s body is near the area where he went into the river. He gave the family permission to search in their own boats, further down stream.
“They gotta do something. So we’re allowing them to go and search other parts of the river that we’re not searching right now,” he said.
Dozens of friends and family have gathered by the river, holding on to hope.
“In my heart, I know he’s out there and he’s alive. We’re just praying so hard that God brings him back to us,” Darra Vang said.
Darra said the 11-year-old nephew that went into the water is doing fine physically but is obviously shaken and upset over his missing uncle.
Search crews will be out on the river again around 8 p.m. Tuesday morning.