HAGER CITY, Wisc. - The body of a Wisconsin woman missing since Saturday has been recovered from the Mississippi River. .
Marya Christiansen of Hager City, WI, had been missing since early Saturday morning. The 23-year-old mother of two young boys was last seen leaving a friend's house in Red Wing, MN, driving a white 2006 Dodge Caravan with Wisconsin plates 443 – VPF.
Relatives said Christiansen had been at Red Wing bar Friday night before going to a friend's place, but left with the intention of driving to her own home in Hager City.
On Wednesday, with the help of sonar, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department located a vehicle in the Mississippi River near the Trenton Island Boat Landing in Hager City. Authorities pulled the vehicle from the water and discovered it to be a van matching the description Christiansen would have been driving.
Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove told KARE 11 Wednesday night that, based on clothing and tattoo information provided by the family, the body recovered inside the van is that of Marya Christiansen. She said the exact cause of Christiansen's death and the nature of the accident remains under investigation.
Sheriff Hove said the van was found submerged under the US Highway 63 bridge over the Wisconsin Channel, known locally as the "back channel bridge." The same spot had been searched Wednesday with a Sonar, but the vehicle had apparently shifted in the current.
"Today the vehicle must have turned just right so we could get a couple Sonar shots that looked like tires," Hove explained. "So we got our divers in from Goodhue County to check it out and hook onto whatever was there."
Family members and others looked on from the opposite shore as a towing service gradually lifted the minivan out of the water. The van was suspended from a cable upside down for an extended time period, as Christiansen's friends and relatives wept and hugged each other.
"The family and friends came out and did a wonderful job with the search, covering every area they could to try to find her," Hove remarked.
Friends and family held vigil Wednesday night outside the Bluff's Bar in Hager City, which had earlier in the day been the gathering spot for volunteers. Marya's dad Steve Christiansen thanked all those who had taken part in the search for his daughter over the previous few days.
"She was a young beautiful girl. She had a lot of energy. She was a spitfire," Sharon Christiansen, Marya's godmother, told reporters.
She said the only relief in the tragedy was knowing that Marya hadn't been kidnapped or harmed by another person.
"This is a huge tragedy for our family and it ends in horrible results. When you drink and drive this is the stuff that can happen," Christiansen said, choking back tears.
The victim's two sons, ages three and six, are with their father but the entire extended family to rally around those children.
Christiansen's family thanked all those from law enforcement who had worked on the search and the recovery, and the nonprofit group known as United Legacy that had organized the search efforts after Marya disappeared.