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Search for missing Xcel Energy contract worker at Minnesota Falls dam continues today

Crews searching for the body of Thomas Stich focus their efforts Thursday below Xcel Energy's Minnesota Falls dam on the Minnesota River. Stich fell off a deck on the dam Wednesday. His life jacket was found about 100 yards downstream. Submitted

GRANITE FALLS -- The search for an Xcel Energy worker continues this morning for an Xcel Energy worker who is believed to have fallen from the Minnesota Falls dam and drowned on Wednesday.

Steve Roalstad, an Xcel spokesman, said search and rescue teams had been searching all Friday morning for Tom Stich, 50, of Rush City. A large crane was used to lower a bucket right next to the falls. They believe Stich's body may be trapped there by the currents on the Minnesota River, which is just a few feet below flood level.

After a thorough search downstream on Thursday, "this was the next logical step," Roalstad said.

The next step will be to work on reducing the flow in the area to see through the water more clearly, he said.

Stich apparently fell off the dam around 1 p.m. Wednesday as he was removing logs and debris that had plugged a gate on the dam, which once held a hydroelectric facility.

Stich's life jacket was found about 100 yards downstream from where he was believed to have fallen in. Family members waited at the scene during the search.

The Chippewa County Sheriff's Office is coordinating the search that has included boats from area law enforcement agencies and fire and rescue units, including one from Hennepin County. The Hennepin County search team used a sonar system that helped locate victims of the I-35W bridge collapse.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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