Divers Call Off Search for Missing Snowmobiler

By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

Diver Chad Bonser, left, with Lambourne Diving based out of Mechanicsville, Iowa walks out onto the ice to search the frozen waters of the Maquoketa River northeast of Preston, Iowa, Monday Jan. 24, 2011. A recovery effort was being made for Shawn Berthel, 23, of rural Preston, Iowa, who fell through the ice during a snowmobile outing Saturday night. (AP Photo/The Telegraph Herald, Dave Kettering)

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By Jason Kristufek

PRESTON, Iowa – The search for a missing snowmobile rider is over. A dive team called off that search Monday night.

That’s after Sheriff’s deputies, a K9 Unit and the dive team spent the day searching the Maquoketa River for 23-year-old Shawn Berthel. But those efforts turned up nothing.

Investigators say Shawn Berthel and his friend, Brett Stalker were riding snowmobiles Saturday night near the Maquoketa River. The ice cracked. Both men fell under water.

“Two subjects had broken through the ice and one subject was out, one was still missing," said Jackson County Emergency Management Coordinator Lin Medinger.

Stalker was able to pull himself from the freezing water and call for help.

Search dogs scoured the river and lead investigators to this spot. That’s where they found the empty snowmobiles, but no sign of Berthel.

The Lambourne Diving Team from Mechanicsville volunteered to search the river. It’s only about three to six feet deep in that spot, but the river worked against them. And they fought more than just the cold temperature.

“The current is tremendous right now. Our divers are having trouble staying going parallel because the current is so strong," said Medinger.

A lot of challenges. A lot of worry. And a lot of unanswered questions. Berthel’s family says “thank you” to everyone who searched for Shawn.

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