Occupants of cars identified, but status unclear

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Five days after the disaster, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said divers have identified seven submerged vehicles. Officials have been able to link occupants to six of those vehicles. The seventh was pulled from the river and its occupant is missing, Stanek said in a Monday briefing.

Stanek did not say whether the identified occupants are dead or alive, however.

So far, five people have been found dead, while at least another eight remain missing.

Stanek said divers are working 16-hour shifts in extremely low-visibility conditions. The FBI and U.S. Navy have also joined the effort, offering extra manpower and technology. Divers are working with multiple types of sonar and a remote-operated vehicle to search the river.

Stanek said he expected to find more submerged vehicles underneath the bridge wreckage. Some victims might have been carried downstream by the current, he said.

He could not estimate a timeline for completing the recovery effort, but said he is regularly communicating with victims’ families.

“Our mission is to reunite loved ones with their families,” he said.

The five killed in the collapse are Sherry Lou Engebretsen, 60, of Shoreview; Julia Blackhawk, 32, of Savage; Patrick Holmes, 36, of Mounds View; Artemio Trinidad-Mena, 29, of Minneapolis; and Paul Eickstadt, 51, of Moundsview.

A statement from the Minneapolis Police Department identified the eight missing people: “At the time of the bridge collapse, 21-year-old Richard Chit was in the car with his mother, Vera Peck. Peter Hausmann was driving to pick up a friend. Greg Jolstad was working on the bridge construction project. Christina Sacorafas was on her way to dance class; she left a voicemail message to say that she was running late, delayed by traffic on 35W. 2-year-old Hannah Sahal was riding in the car driven by her mother, Sadia Adam Sahal. Scott Sathers was on his way home from work, his usual route via 35W.”