Bodies of 3 missing people found in Vermillion River, victims identified
UPDATE: Authorities have identified the three swimmers whose bodies were recovered from the Vermillion River Wednesday, two days after they went underwater and didn’t resurface.
The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office identified them Thursday as:
- 41-year-old Ke Drer,
- 22-year-old Miguel Juan-Jose,
- 17-year-old Petrona Juan-Jose.
The bodies of three people who went missing Monday night in the Vermillion River have been recovered.
The Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office said two of the bodies were found shortly before 7 a.m. Wednesday and the third was found about 10 minutes later. All three were found in the area crews had been searching.
Authorities say a family was on the north side of Diamond Island on the Vermillion River near where it feeds into the Mississippi River on Monday night, with one family member fishing and others swimming in the river. However, three swimmers started to struggle in the water and the fisherman went in to help them.
The sheriff’s office said the fisherman got his adult daughter to safety but after he went to help the other two swimmers — a 17-year-old girl and a man — he also went underwater and didn’t resurface.
Emergency crews searched the area for around three hours Monday night, then resumed their search Tuesday morning but didn’t find anything until Wednesday morning.
All three victims are from the same household in Oakdale, the sheriff’s office said. They haven’t yet been publicly identified.
“We feel very saddened by the news,” Pastor Hsa Moo Sheemo told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, his daughter translating.
The pastor helps lead K’Nyaw Baptist Church in St. Paul and says the fisherman who lost his life trying to save the others was also a leader at the church.
“There were no surprises at all, we know how he is, he always helps church members and our family he is really close to us and he always offers his help to everyone,” the pastor added.
Now, the church family is coming together to help the victims’ family, who is from Oakdale.
“I always considered him as one of my sons, he always help us and always being really helpful to our church, we are sad to lose him,” Sheemo said.
The pastor says they want to wait for authorities to formally identify the victims before sharing more about them out of respect for their families. However, plans are underway to start fundraising for them, and 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS will share those when they’re released.