By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Washington County officials have some hefty overtime to pay out to responders after an extensive water search for a man who was never really missing.

Just before 3 a.m. Sunday, officers started searching for Jason Elgersma as his yacht sank into the St. Croix River. After 17 hours, search crews got word that despite an initial report, Elgersma was “alive and well.”

It’s a costly misunderstanding others are expected to pay for.

Twenty-two volunteers serve the nearby Bayport Fire Department. Nearly half of them responded to an early wakeup call Sunday.

Responders got a report that a boater was missing from a sinking yacht.

“Until you know, you just gotta assume the worst and that’s what we did,” Mike Galowitz, the assistant chief of Bayport Fire Department, said.

Washington County sent in divers, Stillwater and Woodbury responded too — just about any agency in the area.

After a long day of searching, crews got word Elgersma was alive.

What would typically be great news was frustrating for Bayport Fire Chief Al Eisinger.

“Very disappointed we had to spend those resources, guys risking their lives, taking resources away from other calls,” he said.

Now the bill is on taxpayers, like Max Kearn who owns Froggy’s Carpet Shop.

“If it’s a bogus report, they should pay for it,” he said. “I think that’s the way I feel about it.”

Elgersma may volunteer to do that.

“Jason appreciates all the concern people have had for his well-being, and he wants to thank the outstanding efforts of the local rescue operation,” said his attorney, Eric Thoule. “Jason understands that those rescue efforts came at a cost to the taxpayers, so he is looking into how he can reimburse them.”

No charges are expected against Elgersma but there was a warrant out for him in another case.

It’s not clear how much the search cost the agencies. Washington County said most of their officers will be paid time and a half.


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