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Dive team called to Mississippi River back channel; Christiansen family clings to hopes

Law enforcement officers converged on a boat launch along the Mississippi River's Back Channel on Wednesday in rural Hager City. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Mike Longaecker)

HAGER CITY -- Family members of Marya Christiansen clung to hopes Wednesday that the Hager City woman would be found, while authorities converged on a boat launch at the Back Channel bridge following the discovery of a suspicious item in the river.

Red Wing police investigator Jerry Rosenow said a water search would begin later in the day near the Mississippi River Back Channel boat launch. He said he did not know what was found by water patrol officers and didn’t comment on the possibility that it was connected to the search for Christiansen, who was reported missing on Sunday.

A dive team arrived on the scene at about 3:30 p.m.

Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove and several of her deputies arrived on the scene at about 2:30 p.m., along with investigators from Red Wing. Officers were seen examining an embankment between Highway 63 and the boat launch.

Christiansen, 23, was reported missing on Sunday after she didn’t return home after a night out in Red Wing with friends. Neither she nor the van she was driving has been seen since.

An extensive search was launched Sunday and efforts continued throughout the week.

United Legacy, a nonprofit, entirely volunteer group, stepped in Wednesday morning to help organize search efforts.

United Legacy's mission is to bring awareness to missing persons and organize public and private search efforts.   

As of 2 p.m., more than 130 volunteers showed up to Bluffs Bar in Hager City throughout the day to help with the search.

"This community is awesome," said Brian Posch, United Legacy incident commander.

Christiansen’s father, Ellsworth resident Steve Christiansen, said Wednesday he and family members have ridden an emotional roller coaster as tips have come in -- and haven’t checked out.

“None of it’s true,” he said. “You think you’re going to get a little bit of hope and it’s taken away that fast.”

Still, he said family members have been pulling together that the mother of two -- 6-year-old Zachary and 3-year-old Taylor -- will be found. The possibility that his daughter disappeared intentionally was not in the cards, Steve Christiansen said.

“This is not her -- not her in any way, shape or form,” he said. “She would not leave this family.”

He thanked the volunteers, many of them strangers to the family and the community, for aiding in the search.

“It is so greatly appreciated,” he said.

River Falls resident Cindy Constantineau, Marya Christiansen’s aunt, said she’s staying positive as the search effort continues.

“We need anybody and everybody to be out looking,” she said.

Red Wing Republican Eagle reporter John Russett contributed to this report

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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