Search for 22-year-old Parker Kruse on Wisconsin River enters fourth week

Parker’s family and volunteers are focusing on a 2-mile stretch of river where Parker was thrown from his boat.
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 1:11 AM CDT
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SPRING GREEN, Wis. (WMTV) - The search for missing boater Parker Kruse passed three weeks Sunday, entering the fourth week of searching for the 22-year-old on the Wisconsin River.

Parker went missing over the Fourth of July weekend near Spring Green, upstream from the boat landing behind the Wisconsin Riverside Resort. His family said he was trying to help another boater when their boats collided and Parker was thrown off.

Weeks later, finding him is still proving to be a challenge, but his family is still searching every day, holding on to hope that he will soon be found. With the help of volunteers, the family has searched the river all the way to Prairie Du Chien where it meets the Mississippi, but they are now focusing on the stretch of water where the accident happened.

“I’ll never give up on him,” maintained Parker’s mom, Jackie Johnson-Kruse.

For the last 22 days, Johnson-Kruse has been on the water or the shores of the Wisconsin River, and her son is still missing.

“I’m feeling tired, little overwhelmed,” she said. Her message to her son: “Parker, where are you? Where are you buddy? It’s time to get out of the river, it’s time to get out of the water, it’s time to come on home.”

Johnson-Kruse said she will not stop searching until she has an answer.

“There’s two people that know where Parker is, and it’s God and Parker, and we just need a sign to know where he is,” she said.

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She said the family has tried everything they can think of: cadaver dogs, divers, even psychics.

“They all say the same thing, they feel like he’s within two miles of where he went in,” Johnson-Kruse explained, adding that this two-mile radius is where they are focusing their efforts.

Family, friend and local volunteers have also stepped in to help search.

“Initially, we’re running up and down between here and Lone Rock,” described Timm Zumm, president of Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) and an early volunteer.

Zumm was one of the first out on the water after Parker’s accident and has been out as often as possible. He is helping search the shores, trying to see if Parker is trapped in the trees that line the riverbank.

“Fish finder, sonar type things, checking out all these snags and sweepers,” he explained.

However, river searches anywhere in the region are no easy feat. Darlington Fire Chief Ted McDermott has done several on the Pecatonica River. He says one of the biggest problems is visibility.

“The divers trying to go in and you can only see four to six inches in front of your mask,” McDermott described, adding, “It takes a long time to cover a short area with divers in that cloudy water.”

Even with sonar, the depth and current in rivers change often, so the searches often involve a lot of guesswork.

“You might never find them until they actually decide to come up which can take hours and can take days and maybe even weeks,” McDermott explained.

Parker’s family said no matter how long it takes, they are not giving up until they can bring him safely home.

“We just need closure so our family can move on,” Johnson-Kruse said.

Parker’s mom added she hopes some change can come from her story. She and others are beginning to advocate for a law that would require kill switches on any boat which would stop the motor if a driver is thrown out.

The driver of the boat which hit Parker’s on July 3 had been thrown into the river – Johnson-Kruse said the collision happened when Parker and his friend tried to stop the other boat’s motor.

“I would like to have something passed in Parker’s honor that every boat should have a kill switch on their boat,” she said, adding, “If the other motor boater had had a kill switch on his boat, we wouldn’t be out here looking for our son right now.”

In the coming week, Johnson-Kruse said a professional diver who has been working with the family will try diving in some spots the cadaver dogs took interest in. The family is also reaching out the University of Wisconsin’s archeology department.

In the meantime, Johnson-Kruse is asking anyone out on the river or driving by to keep an eye out for any sign of her son.

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