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Preliminary autopsy: EGF boy died of accidental drowning

GRAND FORKS - A preliminary autopsy report shows that Anthony Kuznia died of accidental drowning, Polk County Deputy Michael Norland said Friday afternoon.

Group searches for 11-year-old from East Grand Forks
A group from the East Grand Forks, Minn., Fire Department searching for Anthony Kuznia walk a bean field near where the 11-year-old autistic boy was reported missing Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

GRAND FORKS - A preliminary autopsy report shows that Anthony Kuznia died of accidental drowning, Polk County Deputy Michael Norland said Friday afternoon.

Norland has been in charge of the investigation and search for the 11-year-old East Grand Forks, Minn., 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.

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 Lincoln Park to the Minnesota side. 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.

Border Patrol agents typically have special training and experience tracking people through rugged areas.

Norland said Friday he could not comment yet on where Anthony'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 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.

Family statement

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


Anthony's family released a statement to media Friday, thanking volunteers and public safety agencies for their work in the search and the wider community for its help.

"Thanks to everyone trying to show their support and sympathy right now -- We are very grateful but please give us time to grieve," the statement said.

"Right now Anthony is running through Heaven's doors and checking out every space he can find," it said. "In his short life he left an impression on everyone he met."

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 Erdman.

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 officers and fire department workers from two dozen agencies also took part in the search, Hedlund said.

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