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News Briefs: Wahpeton man hospitalized after near-drowning

The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota.


Man hospitalized after near-drowning

MORRIS, Minn. -- A 43-year-old Wahpeton, N.D., man is hospitalized after a near-drowning in Morris on Saturday.

A 911 call was placed from the campground near the dam on the Pomme de Terre River in west-central Minnesota shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, reporting that an unresponsive man had been pulled from the river near the dam, according to Morris Police Chief Ross Tiegs.  

Tiegs said that Aaron Kieffer dove into the river in an attempt to rescue his two juvenile sons after they had become trapped in the dam's current.  However, Kieffer also became trapped in the rolling current beneath the dam.

One of Kieffer's sons was able to free himself and rescue his brother and father.  He also then ran to the campground and asked for help.

All three were taken to Stevens Community Medical Center in Morris.  Kieffer and one of his sons were transferred to St. Cloud Hospital.  Kieffer was listed in good condition this morning.

The other son remained at Stevens Community Medical Center in Morris for observation.

Governor candidate votes early

MARSHALL, Minn. -- Republican Minnesota governor candidates have been promoting early voting before the Aug. 12 primary election, and Marty Seifert announced that he did just that on Monday.

Seifert cast his early ballot at the Lyon County Courthouse in Marshall.

A new state law allows voters to cast ballots early, without an excuse such as plans to be away from local polling places on election day.

Four Republican candidates fighting for the party's nomination in the primary are encouraging. It gives campaigns a chance to lock in votes early and to see how their messages are resonating.

Information about early voting and other election details are available at

Veterans' job fair Wednesday

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. -- Minnesota's largest event for military veterans looking for work is planned for Wednesday in Brooklyn Center, just north of Minneapolis.

Gov. Mark Dayton will speak at the career fair, which is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Earle Brown Heritage Center. It is open to all current and former military members.

More than 140 employers, ranging from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota, plan to attend.

A limited number of suits will be available for participants who need to dress up for interviews.

Workshops will be offered on job search techniques and starting a business.  


Flood assessment moves to Twin Cities

ST. PAUL -- Much of this week's work by local, state and federal officials to assess damage from last month's Minnesota floods is planned for the Twin Cities area.

State Emergency Services Manager Kris Eide had said that she wanted the Twin Cities assessment to begin now because that would be the quickest way to get federal aid. She said urban and suburban counties have more damage than those in rural areas, because of dense population and more public infrastructure, so it should not take much looking to find $7.3 million in damage, the amount needed before the state can get federal assistance.

Counties that have reported to the state thus far say they experienced $32 million in flood-related costs.

The assessments are only for public facilities such as roads and water treatment plants. Private homes and businesses may receive aid through other programs.

Damage began on June 11 and eventually spread to more than half of the counties.

Once damage has been assessed, Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to seek a federal disaster declaration that would lead to Washington paying for 75 percent of the damages. The state would pick up most of the rest.


Lambert, Shelton at We Fest in 2015

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – This year’s WE Fest hasn’t even kicked off yet, but promoters have already announced two headliners for 2015, August 6, 7 and 8.

Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton will headline next year’s country music fest. The announcement came out in an e-mail and did not say whether the couple would be performing together or on separate nights. In 2011, three months after they got married, they performed separate nights of the festival.

Lambert just released her fifth record, “Platinum.” The chart-topping disc includes “Somethin’ Bad,” her fourth no. 1 hit.

This year’s lineup includes headliners Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band. Other acts include Florida Georgia Line, The Band Perry, Brantley Gilbert, Randy Houser, Travis Tritt and others. The festival at Soo Pass Ranch near Detroit Lakes is Aug. 7-9.



Arson charges dropped against former principal

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Felony arson charges against former the former Catholic high school principal accused of setting fire to the school were dropped Monday.

Southwest District Judge William Herauf signed off on the state’s motion to dismiss charges against Thomas Sander, who had been in his first year a principal at Trinity High School in Dickinson. The state had alleged that Sander started the March 3 fire that caused up to $20 million in damage and displaced students for the remainder of the school year.

Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning filed the motion Thursday, saying in an interview that there was “insufficient evidence to go forward with reasonable expectation of convictions” after much of Sander’s confession was ruled inadmissible in court July 1.

Herauf approved the motion Monday afternoon, Sander’s defense lawyer Lloyd Suhr confirmed.

“As far as this prosecution, it’s done,” Suhr said.

The state could still bring a new criminal case against Sander if new evidence surfaces within the three-year statute of limitations.

Man dies after firework hits him in face

WILLISTON, N.D. - A 35-year-old Oregon man died after a firework struck him in the face early Saturday morning, according to the Williams County Sheriff’s Office.

Det. Caleb Fry said detectives were called between midnight and 1 a.m. and found Michael Cottrell deceased.

“I believe one of the parties attempted CPR,” Fry said.

Cottrell of Portland was shooting off fireworks with a small group of people. Fry said it was an aerial firework that required a tube to ignite and launch it. Cottrell was struck in the face.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy on Cottrell and ruled it as an accidental death.

Fry said the sheriff’s office did not receive any reports of other incidents involving fireworks over the holiday weekend.

“It’s so preventable,” he said.

Pipe failure causes saltwater spill

BISMARCK, N.D. – Three hundred barrels of saltwater were released at a disposal well about 20 miles northeast of Watford City, the Oil and Gas Division of state Department of Mineral Resources said in a release.

Belfield-based Missouri Basin Well Service, Inc. reported Sunday that the saltwater was released, contained and recovered at the Jellesed Saltwater Disposal 1.

The company said a pipe failure is believed to have caused the release.

“There was some stress on the pipe,” said Alison Ritter, spokeswoman for Mineral Resources. “The pipe going to one of the tanks failed because of the heat.”

A state inspector is en route to the site to monitor the cleanup.

Body recovered from Pierce County lake

RUGBY, N.D. -- Emergency responders found the body of a drowned 20-year-old man in Buffalo Lake in Pierce County Sunday afternoon.

A 911 caller reported a missing swimmer to law enforcement Saturday night. Officers searched the lake and shorelines throughout the night, according to a Pierce County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Several watercraft with sonar detection devices and an unmanned submersible detector were used during the morning search, and the missing swimmer, whose identity has not been released pending family notification, was found about 1:30 p.m., according to the news release. He is from rural Benson County, according to the release.

The victim’s body was sent to the University of North Dakota medical center for an autopsy.

Man killed in rollover

WATFORD CITY -- A Watford City man was killed Friday evening in a rollover car accident seven miles south of Arnegard in McKenzie County.

James Johnson, 56, had been driving eastbound when his 2013 Chevrolet Camaro LS1 and failed to make a large left-hand turn and entered the south ditch off the street.

Johnson's vehicle slid sideways into a gravel driveway and launched back into the ditch, where it rolled before coming to rest on its roof.

Johnson was killed in the crash. He had been wearing his seatbelt and his airbag deployed, according to a report by the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Murder trial moved to Ellendale

WILLISTON, N.D. -- A man accused of murder in Williams County had his trial delayed and moved to Ellendale.

Ryan Stensaker, 33, is charged with the murder of Williston rancher Jack Sjol. His trial was scheduled to start July 8, but The Associated Press reports Judge David Nelson agreed to postpone until Dec. 9 and move the trial to Ellendale. The trial is now scheduled in December.

Stensaker’s defense lawyers asked for a change of venue from Williams County due to heavy media coverage of the killing, and Nelson agreed to the request.

Stensaker is being held behind bars on a Class AA felony charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the April 2013 killing of Sjol. Sjol was reported missing April 24, 2013. His body was found in a private dump May 14, 2013.

Stensaker and four other people were arrested in the case but charges have been dropped against two suspects. A third suspect, Issac Steen, was convicted on a charge of hindering law enforcement. Theresa Steen is facing the same charge.

Sjol’s body was found on Issac Steen’s property with bullet wounds to the head, face and upper arms.