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Authorities in N.D. work to recover body of driver swept off highway

GWINNER, N.D. – Authorities here are working to retrieve the body of someone who is believed to have drowned after the pickup the person was driving went off a flooded highway and was swept into deep water.

The driver called 911 about 8 a.m. after the pickup was swept off Highway 32 about seven miles north of Gwinner, said Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper.

Paeper said the location was about two miles into Ransom County.

He said members of the Gwinner Fire Department responded within a few minutes of the 911 call. Firefighters were actually running alongside the banks of a swollen creek following the pickup truck when they saw it sink beneath the surface, Paeper said.

He said 911 dispatchers were in contact with the driver for a time but the person was not able to get out of the vehicle and the contact was eventually lost.

Paeper said the location of the pickup is known and a recovery operation is underway. He said the vehicle is believed to be in water between eight and 12 feet deep.

The Gwinner area received seven inches or more of rain overnight, Paeper said, which turned a creek in the area into a river and sent water over many roadways, including Highway 32.

Paeper said vehicles were being allowed to drive through the water that was over Highway 32 and it wasn’t known what caused the pickup to leave the road and be swept away.

He said authorities believe they know the identity of the driver but the person’s name was not being released until it could be confirmed.

The National Weather Service says as much as 8 inches of rain has fallen in the southeastern city of Gwinner since midnight, swamping streets and flooding some buildings including the Bobcat Co. plant.

North Dakota's Transportation Department says floodwaters also have led to the closure of state Highway 13 about 8 miles west of Gwinner and Highway 32 between Gwinner and Lisbon. Highway 18 in Wyndmere also has water on it, and traffic speeds are reduced.

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