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Preliminary autopsy: East Grand Forks boy died of accidental drowning

Anthony Kuznia died of accidental drowning, a preliminary autopsy report shows, Polk County Deputy Michael Norland said this afternoon.

Norland has been in charge of the investigation and search for the 11-year-old East Grand Forks boy who went missing Wednesday afternoon. His body was recovered just after 4 p.m. Thursday from the Red River slightly more than a half-mile northeast of his home on Rhinehart Drive.

An autopsy was performed by the medical examiner’s office in Grand Forks.

“There is no foul play suspected,” said Norland, including no obvious signs of any trauma or wounds.

But until the final autopsy results are in, the investigation remains open and he won’t comment on many details of the case, he said.

Polk County Sheriff Barb Erdman said Thursday that the boy’s shoes, found on the river bank that day, helped searchers zero-in on the body.

A team of U.S. Border Patrol agents spent hours Thursday walking both sides of the Red River south from the walking bridge linking Grand Forks’ Lincoln Drive Park to Minnesota. It was through very dense grass, brush and muddy terrain, and shortly after noon were seen near the site where the body later was recovered.

Norland said Friday he could not comment yet on where Kuznia’s body was found in the river and exactly how it was located after the shoes were found by searchers on the river bank.

The Northeast Regional Water Operations Team run by the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department used its flat-bottomed aluminum boat with sonar-based three-dimensional “side-imaging” unit to scan the river bottom Thursday from inside city limits of East Grand Forks south, ending at the site where the body was found.

That boat was part of the recovery operation, along with divers using a smaller boat who were seen in the water, and a larger pontoon, according to witnesses on the river, including a Herald photographer.

Norland said he met today with family members of Kuznia, who lived with his grandmother, Janet Luettjohann.

Luettjohann called 911 at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday to report Anthony missing. She said he had been gone from the house only a short time, Norland said.

Anthony had autism, with some difficulty walking. But he liked to explore, especially tents and RV campers and was attracted to water, family members told her, Erdman said.

About 200 people volunteered in searches Wednesday and about 490 Thursday, many of them going out more than once, according to East Grand Forks Police Chief Mike Hedlund.

Up to 100 or more law enforcement and fire-fighting workers from two dozen agencies also took part in the search, Hedlund said.

Stephen J. Lee | Forum News Service

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