UPDATE: Body of Stockton man found in Mississippi River after ca - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Body of Stockton man found in Mississippi River after canoe accident

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Photo from: Hans Dammermann Photo from: Hans Dammermann
Photo from: Hans Dammermann Photo from: Hans Dammermann
Photo from: Hans Dammermann Photo from: Hans Dammermann
WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- The body of an elderly Stockton man who apparently drowned in the Mississippi River Friday morning has been found. 

The Winona County Sheriff's Office said Saturday that the victim is Robert Duncanson, 88, of Stockton, and his body was found by searchers just before 3:00 p.m. Saturday .

The Sheriff says he was found not far from the spillway where he was last seen and was discovered by drag bars searching the riverbed. 

Duncanson was said to be an experienced fisherman.  But officials say he was fishing in dangerous waters. Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle told KTTC's Devin Bartolotta at the scene that the canoeist fell into the Mississippi River near the Prairie Island spillway about 11 a.m. Friday.

The fire chief said the water depth in the area is about five to seven feet with pockets about 40 to 60 feet. 

"It looked like he was right up against the spillway, trying to get a grip on it," said a witness named Jake, who declined to be fully identified because of his religious beliefs.  Jake said he watched as Duncanson became trapped in a rip current, clinging onto a log.

"My son said, 'if you look real close, you can see the paddles,' and sure enough, we could see the paddles coming up. It looked to me like he had them in his hands," Jake said.  Jake said he quickly put a boat in the water and tried to help, but the current was too strong.

"We got as close as we dared," he said, pointing to a large log resting on the spillway. "Almost to that log."

Rescue specialists and officials with the Winona Dive Rescue Team, Winona Fire Department, Goodview Fire Department, Winona County Sheriff's Office and Winona Police Department responded to the scene in minutes, but what started as a search effort became a recovery effort.  First responders began combing the riverbed with drag bars in an effort to find Duncanson's body.

"We believe he's still in the waterway where he went in because of the swirling motion right there by the spillway," said Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand.  Duncanson's battered canoe and oars were found downstream.  The Winona County Sheriff's Office says fishing near the spillway was far too dangerous.

"He was close to the spillway, which is probably too close. He is a good swimmer, he did not have a lifejacket on," said Sheriff Brand.

The man who witnessed what happened, Jake, said the older man went fishing almost every day and would spend weeks camping alone near Prairie Island.  But Jake says the way this outdoorsman died was reflective of how he lived.
"He's the type that would say, if I have to die, I'd want to die in the river."

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