An ice jam broke loose, forcing crews to change tactics in their search for a missing man in the Heart River.
“Our biggest concern now is, even last night as we were wrapping up, an ice jam we had been watching most of the day let loose,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said Wednesday.
The incident covered the day’s search area in large chunks of ice.
Dive crews are no longer able to access the water in any way, so his department is looking for other options to continue the search for 74-year-old Lynn Fairfield, of Bismarck, according Kirchmeier.
Fairfield's boat was found capsized after a woman called 911 at 5 p.m. Monday to report her husband missing, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Office. She told police Fairfield had left home at 9 a.m. that day to check some hunting locations and she had been unable to reach him on his cell phone.
Air, land and water searches have so far proved unsuccessful and bad weather predicted through the rest of the week could complicate things further.
A drone and a North Dakota Highway Patrol aircraft will continue to fly the area daily, weather permitting, Kirchmeier said. Searches on foot also will be conducted along the shoreline between the point where it is suspected Fairfield entered the water and the County Road 139 bridge. Pinging the man’s cell phone produced no usable results.
Kirchmeier said marks in the dirt of the shoreline matching the boat’s bow led searchers to believe the boat had made it to shore. But there were no footprints on the shoreline, which made crews think the man may have had difficulty while trying to get out of the boat.
The water temperature is in the upper 30s, meaning hypothermia would set in quickly upon entering to water, along with shock, Kirchmeier said.
Water in the Heart River did rise overnight as predicted, from about 8 feet to 10 or more feet deep, Kirchmeier said. Shoreline that was visible yesterday is now underwater.