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Friday, June 24, 2016

SL drowning victim found in Little Sioux River

Monday, July 2, 2012

(Photo)
The Buena Vista County Sheriff's Department and Department of Natural Resources staff teamed up Thursday afternoon in Linn Grove to search for 30-year old Storm Lake resident Lithavongsay Nouthavykoun, who drowned on Wednesday in the Little Sioux River near Linn Grove. The body was recovered late Friday. / Photo by Ashley Miller
Searchers pulled the body of Storm Lake man Lithavongsay Nouthavykoun from the Little Sioux River late Friday afternoon, ending a somber three-day search over several miles of river.

He was recovered at approximately 4:30 p.m. about 500 yards downstream from where he was last seen Wednesday afternoon. Nouthavykhoun was taken to the Iowa Medical Examiner's Office in Ankeny with an autopsy planned for next week. Officials announced the end of the search later Friday night.

The 30-year-old and his two companions had been wading in the river about a half a mile west of the Linn Grove dam, when one roamed into deeper water, about up to his neck. Suddenly he disappeared under the water, came briefly to the surface yelling for help, and disappeared.

Officials presume the victim stepped into a sinkhole, or perhaps became caught in underwater debris.

The friends with him searched, and when they could not find him, they drove to Storm Lake to report the victim missing - by then, two hours had passed since Nouthavykoun's disappearance.

All of the men were Asian immigrants, and there was a severe language barrier, according to Launderville. None of them had a cell phone, and when they tried to go to the bait shop for help, it was closed.

Although a dive team from Carroll County was put on alert after the incident was reported Wednesday evening, the decision was made not to call them in.

"With the current being what it is in that crazy river, he could be half a mile downriver, or he could be ten miles," Buena Vista County Sheriff Gary Launderville said after the incident.

Sheriff's officials called in help from the Department of Natural Resources and searched several miles of the river until about 8:30 Wednesday night, but at the same time, had to deal with a fire in Sioux Rapids. They returned Thursday and searched until near darkness. The search was resumed Friday after the threat of lightning had passed.

Plans were being made to carry on the search for at least a few more days if necessary, although by later in the week, hope of recovering the body were growing slimmer. Deputy Doug Simons admitted such an effort could be fruitless if a body were snagged on an underwater obstruction. "A river like this is a moving, changing environment. In some cases nothing may ever be found unless conditions change to the point where there is very low water, or very high water that breaks things loose."

Even when water levels are low, conditions in the river can be dangerous, Launderville warned. Over the years, there have been a few drownings in the area and several near-drownings when boaters have been caught in the swirling water near the dam. The last fatality in that area of the river was in 2000, Launderville said.

Searchers pulled the body of Storm Lake man Lithavongsay Nouthavykoun from the Little Sioux River late Friday afternoon, ending a somber three-day search over several miles of river.

He was recovered about 500 yards downstream from where he was last seen Wednesday afternoon. Nouthavykhoun was taken to the Iowa Medical Examiner's Office in Ankeny with an autopsy planned for next week. Officials announced the end of the search later Friday night.

The 30-year-old and his two companions were wading in the river about a half a mile west of the Linn Grove dam, when one roamed into deeper water, about up to his neck. Suddenly he disappeared under the water, came briefly to the surface yelling for help, and disappeared.

Officials presume the missing man stepped into a sinkhole, or perhaps became caught in underwater debris.

The men with him searched, and when they could not find him, they drove to Storm Lake to report the victim missing - by then, two hours had passed since Nouthavykoun's disappearance.

All of the men were Asian immigrants, and there was a severe language barrier, according to Launderville. None of them had a cell phone, and when they tried to go to the bait shop for help, it was closed.

Although a dive team from Carroll County was put on alert after the incident was reported Wednesday evening, the decision was made not to call them in.

"With the current being what it is in that crazy river, he could be half a mile downriver, or he could be ten miles," Buena Vista County Sheriff Gary Launderville said after the incident.

Sheriff's officials called in help from the Department of Natural Resources and searched several miles of the river until about 8:30 Wednesday night, but at the same time, had to deal with a fire in Sioux Rapids. They returned Thursday and searched until near darkness. The search was resumed Friday after the threat of lightning had passed.

Plans were being made to carry on the search for at least a few more days if necessary, although by later in the week, hope of recovering the body were growing slimmer. Deputy Doug Simons admitted such an effort could be fruitless if a body is snagged on an underwater obstruction. "A river like this is a moving, changing environment. In some cases nothing may ever be found unless conditions change to the point where there is very low water, or very high water that breaks things loose."

Even when water levels are low, conditions in the river can be dangerous, Launderville warned. Over the years, there have been a few drownings in the area and several near-drownings when boaters have been caught in the swirling water near the dam. The last fatality in that area of the river was in 2000, Launderville said.



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