Snowmobiler's body recovered after four+ days of searching

Jay Schneider, Lake Region Life/Elysian Enterprise

The body of an 18-year-old Owatonna teen was recovered from Lake Tetonka in Waterville at approximately 10:45 a.m. Friday morning, Jan. 19.

Dozens of crews from local law enforcement agencies had been working from sun up to sun down since Monday morning, trying to recover the body of Eric Schwanke of Owatonna.

Schwanke, a high school senior at Owatonna High School, was presumed drowned after the snowmobile he was driving hit open water on Lake Tetonka late Sunday night, Jan. 14.

According to law enforcement officials, a sonar system was brought to the lake from Marathon County, WI, to help in the search Thursday.

Thursday afternoon the system was first used in the search. Officials worked until mid-evening and returned to their recovery efforts Friday morning.

An area was mapped out and the sonar was used to track and detect points of interest.

Once the points of interest were located Friday morning, underwater cameras were sent to the area the sonar detected an inanimate object which was thought to possibly be the body.

Divers were then sent into the lake and Schwanke's body was recovered in water 25 to 30 feet deep.

The body was recovered near the area in which Schwanke was thought to have first entered the lake.

According to Waterville Fire Chief Chris Meskan, dozens of law enforcement officials from the area helped all week long in the attempt to recover the body.

He cited the efforts of all departments including fire departments from:

Waterville, Elysian, Kilkenny, Cleveland, Montgomery, Le Center, New Prague, Morristown, Waseca, Janesville, New Richland, Faribault, Madison Lake and Owatonna.

He also said Le Sueur County, Waseca County, Steele County, Sibley County and Marathon County, WI, had crews from their respective sheriff's departments on location.

Divers from Le Sueur, Blue Earth, Steele and Marathon County along with divers from Faribault, assisted efforts.

The Salvation Army was also on hand almost the entire week, helping in any way they could.

Meskan and Le Sueur County Sheriff David Gliszinski were in charge of the overall operation of recovering Schwanke, something which Meskan would rather not do again.

I certainly hope we don't have to do anything like this again

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