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Search underway for Moorhead college swimming instructor missing in Red River

A crew searches for a missing swimmer in the Red River Thursday, June 29. Dave Olson/ Forum News Service1 / 3
Fanuel Shewarega Asrat shown in a Facebook profile picture from May 2014.2 / 3
Fanuel Asrat3 / 3

FARGO — For the second time in a month, emergency crews are searching the Red River, looking this time for a Minnesota State University Moorhead swimming instructor thought to have drowned.

The missing man, identified by Fargo police as Fanuel Shewarega Asrat, 24, was one of three men who went swimming about 5 a.m. Thursday, June 29, between a floating bridge and the rapids of the dam by Dike West Park in Fargo, said Battalion Chief Bruce Anderson of the Fargo Fire Department.

"The current is pretty fast around the dam. We encourage people if you are going to swim, stay away from the dam area because the speed of the water and velocity does increase. There's rocks in the dam," Anderson said.

The battalion chief said the men were swimming near the rapids when Asrat disappeared. He said Asrat's companions thought he may have climbed out of the river on the Moorhead side. But when he couldn't be found, authorities were called about two hours later.

"We searched all day today and didn't find anything. We'll be sending crews out again tomorrow (Friday, June 30)," Anderson said.

The two friends who were with Asrat at the river Thursday morning spoke with police who later searched his dorm room at MSUM's Grantham Hall. Asrat's friends were also out searching for him Thursday afternoon and stopped by his dorm, but he was not there.

Asrat's LinkedIn account shows that he's a swimming instructor at MSUM and has been since September 2014. He also serves as treasurer of the MSUM Economics Society and as an accountant and bookkeeper for the university's Roland Dille Center for the Arts.

Asrat has a bachelor's degree in economics from MSUM, and he previously attended Salisbury University in Maryland and Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia. Friends said he was originally from Ethiopia and that he was considering taking summer courses in computer science and information technology.

"I never heard them talk about swimming there. I didn't think that was a thing, swimming in the river," said 20-year-old Edomias Tezera, a friend of Asrat's.

Tezera said a friend called him around noon Thursday with the news of Asrat's disappearance.

"It doesn't sound good so far," Tezera said, adding that "there's still time" for Asrat to turn up.

Shaheryar Zaidi, an MSUM junior who is friends with Asrat, was at Dike West Park Thursday evening. "I'm shocked... shocked for everybody," said Zaidi, 27.

On LinkedIn, Asrat said he was a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity International and described himself as an "economist by training, inquisitive through instinct, hard working by choice."

Anderson said emergency crews are mainly looking for Asrat in the river, but they're also searching the banks. He said he was unaware that Asrat was a swimming instructor.

"That is crazy," Anderson said. "I hope he just went somewhere and someone found him."

Earlier this month, 29-year-old David Tikayne disappeared after entering the Red River on June 5. Emergency workers found his body in the river June 15.

WDAY contributed to this report.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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