8-year-old girl’s body recovered from Minnesota River in Mankato

Authorities in Minnesota report an 8-year-old girl has died after swimming and playing in a river. (Source: KEYC)
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 7:43 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 5:23 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The body of an 8-year-old girl who went missing while swimming on the Minnesota River has been recovered.

Authorities identify the girl as Willow Bense from Janesville.

“It’s a sad day. We really also like to express our sympathies and condolences to the family again,” said Capt. Paul Barta of the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office. “I spent some time with them this morning. The loss of a child is heartbreaking. It’s always heartbreaking, an accidental type situation like this, and it’s nothing short of a tragedy.”

Thursday night, Willow was swimming with her family on the back side of Sibley Park in Mankato when she began to struggle in deep water.

Captain Barta says the children were initially wearing life jackets, yet they took them off as they spent time on the sandbar.

A bystander was there and was able to help one of the children to safety, but was unable to rescue Willow.

Willow’s mother attempted to save her, but was also swept away by the river.

Prior to Thursday, the family had visited the river a week ago with the children.

FULL VIDEO: Authorities provided update on the recovery of 8-year-old girl from Minnesota River

“Our search efforts on the river continued from the time of the call all the way through the night time. And we did have some staffing reduction due to safety issues that occur during the night time. But we stepped up those search efforts again this morning. And right around 8:40, a.m., one of the search boats was able to locate Willow’s body probably about 5,000 feet downstream from where she was last seen yesterday,” Explained Capt. Barta.

Captain Barta says a State Patrol helicopter, several drones, and 11 boats were combing the area.

“I say all the time when we have these unfortunate events that happen, that the resources and the cooperation among the agencies in the area that we live in, work is incredible. And having this many agencies come out really within a matter of, I would say it was only an hour or two to get that many different boats they’re actively working to help find this child is pretty incredible.”

POSTED 11:30 AM July 22, 2022: The Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office says the body of an 8-year-old girl who went missing while swimming on the Minnesota River in Mankato Thursday has been recovered.

Captain Paul Barta says the Cleveland Fire Department recovered the body of 8 year old Willow Bense of rural Janesville around 8:40 Friday morning.

Bense has been swimming with her family on the back side of Sibley Park in Mankato when she began to struggle. A by-stander was able to save her sibling but not get to Willow. Barta says WIllow’s mother attempted to save her but was also swept away by the river.

Barta says an autopsy will be conducted by the Ramsey County Medical Examiners Office.

This story will be updated.

POSTED 7:30 AM July 22, 2022: The search continued for a missing eight-year-old girl, throughout the night, without success.

On Thursday, a family with four children were swimming in the river near a sandbar. Witnesses reported two of the children including an eight-year-old girl began struggling in deep water. A bystander was on hand to help one of the children out of the water, but was unable to rescue the girl.

A bystander was able to help one of the children out of the water but was unable to rescue the girl.

Multiple local agencies plan to continue their search today for the girl who went missing in the Minnesota River on Thursday.

The search originally began after a report of a possible drowning near Sibley Park at around 6 p.m.

A media briefing at the Public Safety Center at 710 South Front Street in Mankato at 11 a.m. this morning.

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