Search for missing boater expands to Mississippi River

Investigation rules out foul play in case

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

PRESCOTT, Wis. – Wisconsin and Minnesota authorities have expanded their search for a missing boater from the St. Croix River to the Mississippi River, a Prescott Police Department investigator said Thursday

Pierce County, Wis., and Goodhue County, Minn., sheriff’s office boat patrols from moved downstream from Prescott into the Mississippi River searching for the body of 65-year-old Merriett Maul of Welch, Minn., who fell into the St. Croix River Tuesday night, said Investigator Robert Funk of the Prescott P.D.

“Search patterns and techniques have been adapted to deal with the large area of water and currents,” Funk said. “Pierce County Dive Team members are on standby, but will not be diving unless there is a favorable indication from the side-scan sonar being used.”

Prescott Fire/EMS Chief Bill Dravis said the search area was expanded after Pierce County divers, with help from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, searched the area around Prescott’s public dock where Maul went into the water about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Along with searching for Maul, Funk said investigators continue looking at the circumstances of Maul’s fall into the St. Croix. After being alerted to the situation, rescue workers searched for Maul Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. The search was suspended and resumed at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Funk said a preliminary investigation does not indicate foul play in the case.

“This appears to be a case where Mr. Maul assisted with docking his friends boat,” Funk said. “He exited the boat onto the dock in order to secure the boat on the Prescott Public Dock. After docking, Mr. Maul entered the water without being observed. Friends entered the water in an attempt to help Mr. Maul but without success.”

The Prescott Public Dock is located near the end of the St. Croix River, between the U.S. Highway 10 Bridge and the railroad bridge, Funk said.

Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said Wednesday the search for Maul is hampered by a high and swift-flowing St. Croix River. She added that Maul apparently was not wearing a life jacket when he fell into the river.

The case remains under investigation, Funk added. Aiding the Prescott P.D. and Fire/EMS and PCSO are the Wisconsin DNR and Washington, Dakota and Goodhue sheriff’s departments.