Hundreds of volunteers search for Madeline Kingsbury near Winona
More than 700 volunteers showed up Friday morning to search for Madeline Kingsbury, a Winona woman who went missing from her home on March 31.
GOODVIEW, Minn. — Some of them drove hours to help look.
They came from the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and across town. They took time away from work. They came on their days off.
They were all hoping for the best.
Organized into two main search parties, more than 700 volunteers showed up Friday morning to search for Madeline Kingsbury, a Winona woman who went missing from her home on March 31.
"I'm very hopeful, but obviously the realization is that it might not be as positive as everyone hopes," said Courtney Lindley, a volunteer who drove from Onalaska, Wisconsin. "But closure for the family is a huge thing, too."
Volunteers started arriving at the Goodview Fire Department before 9 a.m., forming a line that snaked out the building. The logistics out of that station alone — which represented only half of the overall search — were a monumental feat.
Ben Klinger, Winona County emergency management coordinator, said the search included "the entire southeast region" of emergency management. It also included Task Force 1, and numerous local law enforcement agencies and fire departments.
Retired firefighter Denny Barwald drove over an hour from Mantorville to help with the search.
"I think as a member of any community, it's important to pitch in and help," Barwald said. "It's a tragedy when something like this happens."
Coordinators organized the volunteers into groups, with designated team leaders and wristbands. Red Cross volunteers distributed water and food. School buses transported groups to different areas to search. An army of neon vests and first responder insignia intermingled with those in street clothes.
From there, the search began. They looked through residential yards and along wooded riverbeds. Behind sheds and underneath boats docked on trailers in the grass.
Volunteers Macy Houska and Rob Prestwood waded through a river stream. Houska had rubber boots. Prestwood didn't.
Matthew Kramer, one of the search leaders from the Goodview Fire Department, encouraged his volunteers to stay vigilant.
"This is the point of it: searching all the grounds," he said. "Don't kind of phase out and just start walking — keep looking as thoroughly as you can. As tedious as it is, and how (rough) the terrain can be, just keep looking."
Some property owners were accommodating to the search crews. Others were less so.
"We're a search team from the county," Kramer responded to a property owner who threatened to call the police.
Officials didn't clarify exactly how much ground the volunteers covered Friday. But, they did encourage residents to be proactive about searching their properties for anything that may seem out of place.
Bonney Bowman with the Minnesota Bureau of Investigation emphasized that in addition to the volunteer search party, law enforcement was actively investigating Kingsbury's disappearance.
"When I tell you this is incredibly active, I mean that literally," Bowman said. "We have folks doing everything you can think of."
A second mass search is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 8. Volunteers can register online or at the Goodview Fire Department at 4135 Fifth St. and the Rushford-Peterson School at 1000 Pine Meadows Lane in Rushford. Those volunteering need to be over 18 years old as well as wear appropriate footwear. The searches cover “rough terrain and long distances,” according to a Winona Police Department news release. The searches start at the Goodview Fire Department and the Rushford-Peterson School, and volunteers are then bussed to assigned locations.