Search continues for missing kayaker

COURTLAND – Brown and Nicollet County Sheriff’s departments continue to search the Minnesota River southeast of New Ulm by boat for a 51-year-old Watertown, S.D. kayaker who has been missing since June 22.

Stephen Fritze was kayaking on the swollen, fast-moving, murky river near Courtland last month with two friends while visiting his family in New Ulm when the men became entangled in brush and their kayaks overturned.

While the other two men reached shore, Fritze was last seen near his kayak in the river. A coalition of dozens of government law enforcement, emergency response personnel including police, sheriff’s offices, fire and rescue departments and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), scoured the river in boats and on bridges, looking for any sign of Fritze.

Personnel including the Blue Earth and Le Sueur County Sheriff’s departments used as many as 10 boats at a time, searching from sunup to sundown. Dogs were used as part of the search.

Search efforts have come up empty.

“We’re still searching by boat, alternating days with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office,” Nicollet County Sheriff Dave Lange said. “We’re planning to begin ground searches this weekend.”

Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said he hasn’t determined yet how many personnel would take part in ground search efforts planned to begin this weekend.

“The river is way down now,” Hoffmann said.

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