FORT YATES, N.D. — Search teams on Tuesday, July 9, recovered the bodies of a man and a woman near a washed-out section of a highway on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in southern North Dakota, after authorities had rescued two other people from the water.
BIA Police Chief Sparky Edwards confirmed the dead as Trudy Peterson, an Indian Health Service nurse from Mobridge, S.D., and Jim Vanderwal, either a mail carrier or UPS driver. It wasn't immediately clear where he was from.
Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said Vanderwal's body was recovered about 3:30 p.m. Peterson's body was recovered hours later. Edwards said about 9 p.m. that the search and recovery effort had ended, with no one else believed missing.
The drivers of two vehicles were rescued from floodwaters Tuesday morning on BIA Road 3, known locally as the Kenel Road, which becomes Highway 1806 south of the North Dakota-South Dakota border. About 30 feet of the road was washed away just north of the South Dakota line by 7 inches of rain that fell overnight, according to Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis.
The driver of a Sitting Bull College bus was airlifted to a Bismarck hospital, Faith said, and a tribal worker rescued from the back of his pickup was taken to Mobridge Regional Hospital and later airlifted to Bismarck. Their names were not immediately released, and the nature of their injuries was unclear. There were no passengers in either vehicle.
A swiftwater rescue team, a dive team and a drone operator from Burleigh County went to the scene about noon, Sheriff Kelly Leben said.
He and the Burleigh County team, which consists of sheriff’s department and Bismarck Rural Fire Department members, considered sending personnel to assess the site but decided to send the team and equipment as soon as possible.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” he said. “Communication is limited. Cellphone communication in that area is not the easiest.”
The North Dakota Highway Patrol sent aircraft to survey the area, Lt. Steven Fischer said.
The highway could be closed for a week, according to Landeis.
“If we keep getting rain, there’s no way they can work on it,” he said.
Edwards confirmed that Tuesday night, saying the road is closed "indefinitely."
“Mother Nature showed us she’s still the boss,” he said.