Ground search for Fritze turns up empty

ST. PETER – The search for missing kayaker Stephen Fritze has ended.

The Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office conducted an extensive ground search Sunday with the Courtland Fire Department, North Star and Central Lakes Search and Rescue in an effort to find a 51-year-old Watertown, S.D. man reported missing since June 22, while kayaking on the Minnesota River near Courtland with two other men.

Searchers did not find Fritze on Sunday and have no further search plans at this time, according to a Nicollet County Sheriff’s office news release sent Monday morning.

The sheriff’s office asks individuals seeking recreational activities on or near the Minnesota River in the Courtland area to report anything suspicious they may find. The scene should not be disturbed. Call 507-931-1570 to report the discovery to officials.

The search for Fritze continued by boat for several weeks after the incident. Brown and Nicollet counties searched on alternate dates.

The disappearance of Fritze initially prompted on intense search. Two days after he was reported missing, 40 area law enforcement and firefighters used nine boats, searched on shore and watched the rising Minnesota River flow from bridges.

Two men who were kayaking with Fritze – Cameron Buri and John Carter – made it to shore. Two kayaks were missing at first. One was found near the river bank that included masses of brush and fallen trees. A bag with personal affects including a paddle and beverage cooler were also found in the river that overran its banks after heavy rain.

Trained dogs were brought in the next day to aid search efforts. Personnel involved in the search included the Nicollet, Brown, Blue Earth and Le Sueur County sheriff’s departments, New Ulm Fire and Rescue, Courtland Fire Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

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