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Search crews pull body of missing Valley City State University student from Sheyenne River

Searchers are seen Monday, April 21, 2014, at the Sheyenne River in Valley City, N.D., where they are looking for a man who went missing after rubber raft he was riding in capsized early Monday morning. David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Dan Buehner2 / 2

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Search crews looking for a missing Valley City State University student found his body in the Sheyenne River on Tuesday morning, city Police Chief Fred Thompson said.

Authorities believe Dan Buehner, 23, drowned after a rubber raft carrying him and two others went over a small dam, known as the Little Dam, and capsized about 1 a.m. Monday.

VCSU President Steven Shirley said Buehner, a senior, was majoring in business administration and played catcher for the school’s baseball team. Buehner was from Blaine, Minn., and he graduated from Centennial High School, Shirley said.

“Please keep Dan’s family in your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead during this incredibly difficult time,” Shirley said in a statement.

The two other men on the raft, both VCSU students, were helped to shore by emergency workers and nearby residents. Valley City police identified them as Ryan Shaw, 22, and Hayden Johnson, 21.

On Monday, search crews, aided by specially trained dogs, walked the banks and used boats to look for Buehner. To help the search, the river level was lowered by reducing the water flow at the Baldhill Dam upstream.

Tuesday morning, the river was low enough for searchers to wade through the waters below the Little Dam. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they walked the riverbed until they found the body about 10 a.m. by the Eighth Avenue Bridge, more than 250 yards downstream from the Little Dam, Thompson said. The body will be taken to Grand Forks for an autopsy, he said.

According to a release from the Valley City Police Department, the three men were planning to raft down the river to meet friends waiting for them downstream. They got into the raft near the footbridge by West Main Street and floated downstream on the fast-moving river about a half-mile to the Little Dam, where they ended up in the churning tailwater that was at least 12 feet deep, Thompson said. The air temperature at the time was in the 40s, according to the National Weather Service.

Thompson said the three were not fishing and that no paddles or lifejackets were found after the raft capsized. He said Buehner’s death is under investigation.

Valley City State canceled baseball games Tuesday against the University of Winnipeg and today against the University of Jamestown. VSCU head coach Casey Olney said the entire team has come together over the loss of their teammate.

“It is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Olney said. “We are all mourning, and we are trying, as a university, to help lead these young men through that process, which is a challenge. We don’t really have a manual for it, and we are working through it as you have to. It is tough. We are just taking day by day, minute by minute and seeing what we need to do as we get through the process.”

Senior Kayl Hamre, who is from Enderlin, N.D., and plays outfield for VCSU, said Buehner was a friend and teammate many on the team confided in.

“Dan was one of those soft-spoken kids, but once you really got to know him he opened up and would talk to you about anything,” Hamre said. “This year, we really embraced the leadership role together. We served on the player council for our team.”

News that Buehner was missing Monday came as a shock.

“I remember waking up Monday and hearing the news,” Hamre said. “Right away, it was just disbelief. You felt like you were in a dream and you couldn’t wake up from it. You just wanted to know they were all right, but there was no information (at that time).

“As a team, we are sticking together pretty well,” Hamre added. “We are more than just a team. We are a brotherhood and one massive family.”

Buehner started 19 games this season and posted a .348 average with nine RBIs.

“(Dan) was a very good catcher and had a really good arm,” Olney said. “He had a sweet left-handed swing. He looked like he was born to swing a baseball bat.”

Olney said it was not uncommon to see Buehner take 10,000 cuts in the batting cages before or after practices.

“Dan came from a really great baseball background,” Olney said. “We knew that from the start, and that showed through over the course of his career with his love for the game and his work ethic.”

Buehner’s friends and teammates took to Twitter on Tuesday to share their memories of No. 15.

“Good or bad outing Dan always had something positive to say! You will be greatly missed Beauty!” one post read.

“Heaven gained one hell of a guy,” said another. “Can’t wait to play catch in front of the pearly gates with you Booner.”

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