UPDATE: Search For Missing Person

By: Chris Papst Email
By: Chris Papst Email

UPDATED: Sunday, August 1, 2010 -- 4:50 p.m.

News Release from Columbia County Sheriff:

On 07-31-10 at 8:24pm the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding a missing person in the Wisconsin River in the township of Caledonia.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office along with the Columbia County Dive Team responded to the area.

Search for the missing male ended at 0300hrs on 8/1/2010, and resumed at 0530hrs of the same day.

The body of 25 year-old Kevin Wayne Severson of Madison was recovered from the Wisconsin River by the Columbia County Dive Team at 12:50pm on 8/1/2010.

Mr. Severson was pronounced dead at the scene by the Columbia County Medical Examiner Angela Hinze.

Mr. Severson was with a group of friends canoeing on the Wisconsin River had exited the canoe to swim. Mr. Severson was not wearing any type of flotation device at the time of the incident.

Assisting Columbia County at the scene was Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Portage Fire Department, Columbia County Dive Team, and Divine Savior EMS.

The incident remains under investigation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbia County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards


UPDATED Sunday, August 1, 2010 --- 1:30 p.m.
From NBC15's Chris Papst:

According to Sheriff Dennis Richards of Columbia County, the body of a 25-year-old man from Madison who went missing in the Wisconsin River last night in Columbia County has been found.

The body was found at 1:00 in the afternoon on Sunday by the Columbia County Dive Team. No more information is available at this time.

The victim's name will be released when family is notified.

POSTED: Sunday, August 1 at 1:30 p.m.

This search presented Columbia County officials with many unique challenges.

The call came in at 8:30 Saturday night. A 25-year-old Madison man had gone missing on the Wisconsin River west of Portage. He and about ten friends had rented canoes and planned to spend the night swimming, camping and fishing.

"I can't emphasis the danger the Wisconsin River has in it," said Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards.

What makes the river dangerous also makes it difficult to search.

"There's just a lot of factors," said Jay Yerges, who's the Columbia County Dive Team liaison.

He says the water is flowing at about two knots on the surface. But that's just what you can see. The flow changes with depth.

"That current is just the biggest thing. It shifts everything. It moves everything. It just causes a lot of issues," added Yerges.

Current is really just the beginning of the issues. There's also debris such as trees, sand bars, eddies, undertows and thermoclines. Plus, with all the rain we've gotten lately water levels are a few feet higher than normal.

Plus, if all those challenges aren't enough the water visibility is very low. The divers have to feel their way around as they search.

"Any one that comes to the area like the gentleman here, when they come here from out of the area, no matter what their experiences, they sometimes don't know or understand the water conditions," concluded Yerges. "I want to caution people who are not familiar with this water to use every safety precaution that they should."

Yerges says one of the most important safety precautions when swimming in a river is to be tethered to your boat or canoe.

Of course, life jackets should always be warn as well.


UPDATED Sunday, August 1, 2010 --- 10:00 a.m.
From NBC15's Chris Papst:

Right now, dive teams are searching the Wisconsin River near Portage for a missing 25-year-old man from Madison.

The man vanished at approximately 8:15 p.m. Saturday night.

He and his friends had rented canoes from the River Edge Boat Rental. His friends searched for him for about 15-minutes before calling 911 at approximately 8:30 p.m.

The Columbia County Dive Team searched the river until 3:00 a.m.. They resumed their search earlier this morning.

Friends have gathered at the scene, as dive teams search the area.

Stay with NBC15.com for continuing coverage throughout the day.


Posted Sunday, August 1, 2010 --- 8:00 a.m.

A person has gone missing in the Wisconsin River in Columbia County.

The call came in overnight. The person went missing while canoeing with friends.

The Portage Fire Department tells us that the Columbia County Dive Team will be going in the river later this morning.

They will be focusing their efforts on an area off of Highway 33.

NBC15's Chris Papst is at the scene. He'll be posting an update shortly here on NBC15.com.

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