JACKSON CO. (KWWL) -- The search for a Jackson Co. snowmobiler is called off until spring.
Jackson County sheriff Russ Kettman said divers searched for the snowmobiler's body through Monday evening, at which point they determined the current was too strong to continue.
He said the current was thwarting divers' attempt at a parallel sweeping search pattern, pushing them downstream as they attempted to criss-cross the river.
The search may resume in the spring, Kettman said, but with the current so strong at this point, searching in icy conditions is difficult.
He also said divers said the body may have been swept farther downriver than where they were searching, since the riverbed at the point of the accident is sandy with little debris to catch the body.
He said cadaver dogs once again tried pinpointing the body's location Monday afternoon.
Officials were looking for a snowmobile rider who fell into the icy Maquoketa River Saturday night. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department identifies the man as 23-year-old Shawn Berthel, from rural Preston.
Jackson County Emergency Management coordinator Lyn Medinger was on the scene Monday as a dive team searched for Berthel's body.
"There's a lot of current," Medinger said." Last night, one of our divers that we had out here, they run into ice that was approximately 18 inches thick, you know, all the way down to open water. It depends where the current's flowing."
The Jackson County Sheriff's Department received a report around 8 p.m. Saturday that two snowmobiles were submerged in the Maquoketa River. The caller said the incident happened near the Damon Bridge canoe access about 5 miles north of Preston.
Officials say one of the snowmobile drivers, 34-year-old Brett Stalker of Sabula, was able to climb to safety.
A false alarm Monday raised the hopes of those waiting on the riverbank, but the diver had only made contact with the second submerged snowmobile, which had previously been located.
"We're just going off reference points where the sled is and where he was last seen," Medinger said. "We did have dogs out here Saturday evening. They hit on a spot."
A shovel marked the spot where dogs picked up the victim's scent.
Medinger said, "a drowning victim usually stays pretty much where they go down at," so that's where the divers started searching.
"The wind has picked up, so we're dealing with wind chill factor," Medinger said. 'Within five minutes, you can obtain frostbite."
The Iowa DNR recommends snowmobilers travel on ice at least five inches thick. See attached link for more Iowa DNR snowmobiling safety tips.
Officials say the duration of the recovery efforts depends on the dive team, Lambourne Diving Service, LLC.
Sheriff's deputies have been assisted by Preston Fire & Rescue, MedForce Helicopter Service, Maquoketa Rescue, Miles Rescue, Bellevue Rescue, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Preston EMS, and K-9 Operations Inc. of Clinton, and Lambourne Diving Service, LLC.
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