MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A family has answers almost one month after a Waconia man went missing.
Andrew Stifter, a 35-year-old husband and father, went out on Lake Waconia last month to take pictures of nature on his paddle board.
Hours later, his board and belongings were found in the freezing water not too far from shore.
Law enforcement and the community searched the water and nearby land every day for weeks.
A man ice fishing with an underwater camera saw Stifter’s body in the water Tuesday and alerted authorities.
Stifter’s brother-in-law, Chris Barnick, told WCCO the family is in deep pain, but they are grateful to know that their Andy is finally home.
“These last few weeks have been very difficult, just not knowing where Andy was,” Barnick said.
Stifter was an army veteran and father of two small children. His wife, Katie, is expecting the couple’s third child in the spring.
“Seeing those kids you think of Andy, you know, and for the great man that he was,” Barnick said.
Barnick said his little sister Katie, Stifter’s wife, has shown incredible strength through the ordeal.
“I’m so proud of her,” Barnick said. “[She has] continued to be a beautiful mother to her kids and has honored her husband very well.”
Barnick thanked everyone, including law enforcement from several surrounding communities, for searching tirelessly.
“We’re so very thankful, there’s just no words that can express how thankful we are for the help and the prayers we’ve been given,” Barnick said.
The family is also grateful for the stranger out ice fishing who finally gave them their answer.
“There’s a reason he was there, and it was because Andy was there,” Barnick said.
The search is over, but Barnick knows the support for his sister and her children will continue.
“Just the finality of it, you know, was very difficult,” Barnick said. “I would also say [it was] a blessing to knowing that he is home, and we have him home for Christmas now.”
Stifter’s family is in the process of making funeral arrangements as medical examiners work to determine an official cause of death.
If you’d like to help the Stifter family, a Gofundme account has been set up.