Family and a community shocked over yet another river death

2014-07-13T00:00:00Z Family and a community shocked over yet another river deathALLISON GEYER La Crosse Tribune

The Rev. Patrick Augustine remembers the wintry night 10 years ago when his brother’s family came to the United States.

He met them at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago -- his brother, Peter, and his sister-in-law, Lily, and their three children: Sarah, Zarah and Shalim.

They were exhausted after a 33-hour journey from Islamabad, Pakistan, but Patrick remembers how wide awake his relatives were, how amazed they were to see their first snowfall as they drove north to La Crosse, how they got out of the car to feel the unfamiliar cold.

“They were just so excited to be in a new country,” he said.

The same community that welcomed the immigrants 10 years ago came to their aid last week when their middle child, Shalim, disappeared after spending Tuesday boating with friends. After docking near Powerhouse Marine on La Crosse’s North Side late Tuesday night, he told his friends that he planned to walk to his house on the South Side, about five miles away.

He never made it.

Police and fire personnel, friends and strangers searched for the 23-year-old all week, holding onto hope that he would turn up safe. Those hopes were dashed Friday evening when police confirmed that a body recovered from the Black River at about 6:20 p.m. that evening was, indeed, Shalim’s.

“It’s still a shock to everyone,” said Shalim’s sister, Zarah.

The family mourns the loss of a brother, son and nephew that they remember as warm, considerate, sociable and funny. A well-liked bartender at Huck Finn’s on the Water and Pogreba Restaurant, Shalim was always taking care of his parents and sisters, Zarah said, and was excited to go back to school at Western Technical College this fall to study physical therapy.

“Everyone loved Shalim,” she said. “I was known as ‘Shalim’s little sister,’ because he was so popular.”

But with that grief comes gratitude. The family wants to thank the entire La Crosse community for its support and prayers through the ordeal and as they heal from their loss. Patty Baumgartner, who manages Huck Finn's and coordinated Shalim's search party, deserves particular thanks, Patrick said.

“We are grieving, we are hurting, we are sad, but we have been touched by the care and love of the people here in this community,” Patrick said. “We are very grateful.”

The Augustine family shared a deep Christian faith, facing persecution and harassment from Islamic militants in Pakistan before immigrating to the United States, Patrick said. Shalim served as an acolyte at Christ Episcopal Church, where both his father and uncle were priests. Last Sunday in church, Shalim told his father that he wanted to return to his role and serve at the altar once again.

“He never got the time,” Patrick said. “I hope he serves in heaven at the altar of Jesus Christ.”

As news of Shalim’s death broke Friday night, his name joined the long list of young people who been found in the river after drinking. At least 12 people have died in alcohol-related accidents in La Crosse and Onalaska since 1997, not including drunken driving crashes.

In January, 21-year-old Ellen Ahmann drowned in a Mississippi River backwater after driving her car down an embankment and breaking through the ice. She had been working at a downtown La Crosse tavern and had a blood alcohol level of 0.16 percent.

A year earlier, in February of 2013, UW-La Crosse student Neala Frye was found dead in a ditch near the Spillway Pub in Onalaska, where she had spent the night working at a promotional event. Her cause of death was ruled hypothermia and intoxication; her blood alcohol level was 0.17 percent.

And two years before that, 21-year-old Craig Meyers drowned in the Mississippi River after being dropped off in the 700 block of Market Street on Feb. 14, 2010. Police found footprints leading out onto the ice and divers later recovered his body. His blood alcohol level was 0.19 percent.

Police said Shalim had been drinking Tuesday night, but they could not say whether he was impaired. Saturday’s autopsy will provide answers.

As a professor at UW-La Crosse, Chris Frye has seen La Crosse grapple with the issue of young people and river deaths for many years. Frye knew Shalim well from his involvement with the youth group at Christ Episcopal Church, and he calls the death a “horrible tragedy.”

“You can lay the blame on a lot of different things; it’s such a quagmire of issues,” he said of the city's history of river deaths. “As a parent, this is your worst nightmare.”

Copyright 2016 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(34) Comments

  1. mjwred
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    mjwred - July 19, 2014 9:06 am
    When the river is high, the water current changes minute by minute. Something gets lodged, then released. Up currents, down currents, new current, no current. If you know the river, you will agree. Something can move upstream for a short while, when waters are high.
    Instead of arguing about reasons..... I think we ourselves need to be more educated, especially our children. We now show videos of what happens during texting/driving, drinking/driving..... lets start showing videos of river/drinking. A video on what a human body looks like after being in the water for days. A video on what family and friends go through during the Search/Rescue AND then the Recovery mission cause the dogs have lost the scent in the river. The days of waiting/praying/being hopeful... then the moment that changes everyones life forever.
    VIDEO works w/kids. It's our way of getting into there heads. Even if it turns one kid around at rivers edge. THEIR DRUNK. Their scared. Their young. Their disorientated.
  2. mjwred
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    mjwred - July 19, 2014 8:36 am
    OKAY. I have never did blogging before, but everyone needs to focus their energy into problem solving the real problem here. ALCOHOL.
    My son-in-law (to be), Levi Noffke, left his "to-be-baby" and future family, BY DROWNING IN THIS SAME LOCATION (just north at airport beach landing) early spring 8 years ago. His drowning was caused by ALCOHOL and poor decisions. He started in in the vicinity behind Nutbush, and ended up across the Blk Rvr all the way to the airport beach..... by swimming. He was found just a few feet from the landing in the water. 3 days later.
    Levi was a river kid, and a great swimmer. Heck he swam all the way across the river in his Wolverwine boots still on.
    Levi had a night a "partying" with friends, just as all these other kids. Their young, their drunk, the river and side shore lights are all vary deceiving at night. The airport lights were Levis guide we are assuming. he swam hard, had to to get across the current and high spring waters...
  3. scrutiny
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    scrutiny - July 17, 2014 7:20 pm
    The deaths are related by two variables- young age and a high BAC and subsequent loss of orientation near dangerous bodies of water. Younger drinkers need to learn respect for the power of alcohol no doubt
  4. TotemPole
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    TotemPole - July 14, 2014 9:56 pm
    dogs lost scent just north of loggers field. his body was found floating by Clinton street landing, which is just north of loggers field. I have a slip on the black river. the wind blows stuff up steam all the time.
  5. HotLotto
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    HotLotto - July 14, 2014 9:01 pm
    Yes, the dogs lost his scent by Logger field. But what is not said is if the scent was lost by the river, or road, or elsewhere. MAYBE he got into a car with someone (scent is then lost) and they drove North. Then he decides to walk again. But goes into the river instead. The fact that he ended up in the river upstream from Copeland is absolutely zero proof that he was killed so everyone needs to stop acting like it is.
  6. Sal Yodada
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    Sal Yodada - July 14, 2014 5:10 pm
    LE investigate all suspicious deaths or those not immediately obvious as natural causes as if they are crimes until determined otherwise. This victim was not a victim of a murder he is a victim of the combination of bad decisions made worse from alcohol consumption. He was on a boat drinking all day long. The boat docked. He got separated from his friends. He undoubtedly tried to find them. It is not a stretch to presume that he was confused or disoriented while trying to find a boat in the dark after drinking. The Mississippi is as very turbulent river this year. It has tricky and extremely unpredictable currents and eddys.

    When you consider all drowning deaths and not just a specific set of criteria, there is no pattern. In this CSI, Nancy Grace, 48 Hours Mystery media world people now have developed a conspiracy theory about nearly everything. You have basically manipulated data to create your own pattern. There are nearly as many drownings outside of that demographic same time.
  7. Sidelines
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    Sidelines - July 14, 2014 1:58 pm
    Not true.
  8. Tonga
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    Tonga - July 14, 2014 1:12 pm
    "The La Crosse Fire Department responded to reports of a floating object south of the I-90 bridge near the Clinton St. boat landing at about 6:10 p.m. Friday. By 6:22 p.m., members of the fire and police department recovered a body from the river." Excerpt from the 'Body Found' article you mentioned -

    Bad reporting! South of I-90...near Clinton St. (in-between 3 and 4 miles south of the I-90)...the Logger's field is south of Clinton St....and that's when the dog lost his track. Very bad reporting!
  9. SmileyFace Killers are real
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    SmileyFace Killers are real - July 14, 2014 10:46 am
    People always tie the other victims in your town because they are all similar and many people feel this the work of a serial killer group. You can't deny it when one after another young male disappears under similar circumstances and all found dead in river. THAT'S WHY.
    Did you know, when a body is found in water it is never considered a crime scene. It is a recovery from an accident or suicide.Always.

    LACROSSE= Denial Capital of America
  10. realtorick
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    realtorick - July 14, 2014 10:25 am
    No murders here. Just another alcohol related drowning, Why do we always have to tie it in with the other drowning victims, each case stands on it's own, a separate event. In this case he never should have been dropped off on a boat ramp along the water 4 miles from home when he can't swim and had some drinks. Period, a tragic error and accident, end of story.
  11. clc
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    clc - July 14, 2014 9:53 am
    I agree with sidelines, why was he found up the river and also just because he was drinking doesnt necessarily mean that was the cause of his death! people are too quick to judge and dont think outside the box
  12. SmileyFace Killers are real
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    SmileyFace Killers are real - July 14, 2014 8:16 am
    Thank YOU Sidelines. Calling me names doesn't make me want to stop. I'm a normal person trying to get the message the MSM and LE refuse to acknowledge. The Fact is you have 10 Men found murdered. If Binge drinking is to blame, there would be many other colleges with bigger some research. We are the new media that goes around the MSM. I live here in Ga and we have had over 15 of these murders this year.I have spoken to Police. Had 4 Men dead FROM new Years in 1 week. Two were best friends. Been working with press and families here to draw attention also.You don't have to believe me. This keeps happening because people aren't aware. They need to be. These are Our Brothers, Dads, and friends. If we don't stop this who will?
    I politely suggest

    Be safe. This group is hunting people. Across the country.
  13. Sidelines
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    Sidelines - July 14, 2014 7:27 am
    And it makes perfect sense that his body would stay right where he went into the water with the dangerous current condition of the river? Now you can disagree but are the attacked and name calling necessary? Good grief!
  14. TotemPole
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    TotemPole - July 14, 2014 1:33 am
    Focus conspiracy crazies:
    He was last seen by powerhouse marine and was going to head to his south side home. the dogs followed his scent south. they lost his trail just north of loggers field. his body was found by Clinton street landing, which is also just north of loggers field. all of these things are... SOUTH of the I90 bridge.
  15. Sal Yodada
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    Sal Yodada - July 13, 2014 11:16 pm
    Maybe as part of your research for your serial killer theory you should go downtown and get blitzed and walk home to PROVE that is not even remotely possible to get drunk and disoriented so badly that you would even think of going near the river. You could even go out the next day with tracking dogs to prove there is no way that they would ever lose your trail only to find out that you went all kinds of places after the trail was lost. There is just no way someone could get that drunk, nor would they ever get lost in a town they know so well.
  16. Sal Yodada
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    Sal Yodada - July 13, 2014 11:07 pm
    Yeah, you're right, alcohol had absolutely nothing to do with it. No trace of alcohol was ever found in any of the victims toxicity test results. Couldn't have possibly played any part of these deaths.

    What about the half dozen fishermen that have mysteriously disappeared in that same time, including one family, only to be found days later floating in the river. My theory is that it is probably a rogue mermaid that was spurned by a would be human lover. She has been getting her revenge ever since....
  17. bartleybigears
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    bartleybigears - July 13, 2014 11:07 pm
    Maybe he was abducted by an alien spacecraft. Or maybe mothman swooped in and kidnapped him. You people are laughable. Just keep ignoring the truth.
  18. Sal Yodada
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    Sal Yodada - July 13, 2014 10:58 pm
    My friend Al may be the most prolific killer this country has ever had. He is also a mass rapist and responsible for the rise in single parent households. Al has certainly done his part in fueling the push for health care reform though. Without Al many lonely people may have remained lonesome their entire lives. Al has also caused many to end their relationships and marriages though. Al has caused many that befriend him to lose their jobs due to their association with Al. Al has also given many people the impression that they can sing, dance, and tell funny jokes even when they couldn't ordinarily do so.

    Al may be unstoppable in the damage done. The authorities tried to stop him once, but it only encouraged him to go into hiding and still did plenty of damage. Al empowers people only to shatter their dreams in the end. I doubt anyone can really stop Al from wreaking havoc on all of society.
  19. Sidelines
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    Sidelines - July 13, 2014 10:48 pm
    I agree SmileyFace, I would like to know how he was found up steam as well! To ignore that piece of evidence is very ignorant and bad detective work! There is no denying that there is a binge drinking problem but to insult people who think outside the box is just plain bully behavior and quite childish.
  20. Sal Yodada
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    Sal Yodada - July 13, 2014 10:38 pm
    Yes please explain why he walked upstream before Al killed him.
  21. SmileyFace Killers are real
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    SmileyFace Killers are real - July 13, 2014 9:59 pm
    That is NOT true. Some of the autopsies do have lots of trauma .Some don't have any trauma. People speculate they are suffocated. How anyone can criticize when you have had 10 men murdered is ridiculous. By all means walk downtown by yourself at night in LaCrosse. Do some research. Almost all the victims have unexplained gaps in times they where missing.just like here.
    Please explain to everyone why this young man was found UPSTREAM?
  22. bartleybigears
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    bartleybigears - July 13, 2014 9:11 pm
    Like Montee said, take your evidence to the police. That is if you have enough time to put down your Marlboro and your Mountain Dew and leave your moms basement. You people need to stop watching Nancy Grace and get out and experience reality.
  23. bartleybigears
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    bartleybigears - July 13, 2014 9:07 pm
    The autopsies have shown no, I repeat NO evidence of ANY foul play whatsoever. You conspiracy people need to get a life.
  24. BichionFrise
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    BichionFrise - July 13, 2014 8:51 pm
    Tonga in a previous article it does mention the I 90 bridge. Read the story "Body Found" or something like that.....
  25. Johnny A
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    Johnny A - July 13, 2014 8:14 pm
    My deepest condolences to the family.
  26. SmileyFace Killers are real
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    SmileyFace Killers are real - July 13, 2014 7:15 pm
    Oh there is plenty of evidence. Montee your town and people like you are a joke. Keep making excuses. Again, 10 young men your town and two women have wound up dead under similar circumstances. Instead of criticizing, why don't you do some research and make up your own mind.
  27. Monteee
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    Monteee - July 13, 2014 5:23 pm
    Go to the police station and present your evidence, dunce boy.....LOL

    Oh, wait.....there is NO evidence. Go down there anyway. You'll give them a good laugh!
  28. SmileyFace Killers are real
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    SmileyFace Killers are real - July 13, 2014 3:59 pm
    You people are in complete denial blinded by our PC Culture. Can't even see what is right in front of you. How much more obvious does it have to be? Maybe when the next victim is found like the rest of the victims on this horrible list.maybe when the number hits 20? Believing this is alcohol related is an insult to everyone intelligence. This is going to continue to happen.Tell Your kids. People need to be aware. The Media's silence is responsible for the continuation of these murders.
  29. uncommonsence
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    uncommonsence - July 13, 2014 2:20 pm
    if he walked south to logger field, thought "nope going the wrong way" then turned around going north getting to I-90 then something happened slip trip fall whatever. his scent would have been doubly as strong going south as it would have been going north.
  30. BeHappy
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    BeHappy - July 13, 2014 2:03 pm
    We lead the country in bing drinking and then are shocked when things like this happen. Wake up people! These are the consequences of irresponsible behavior !
  31. bartleybigears
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    bartleybigears - July 13, 2014 11:22 am
    So, he was consuming alcohol before this happened. What a real shocker.
  32. Tonga
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    Tonga - July 13, 2014 9:46 am
    BTW...the article never mentioned anything about the I-90 bridge!
  33. Tonga
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    Tonga - July 13, 2014 9:42 am
    The Black River goes almost another mile SOUTH of the Logger's field....and then hooks up with the Mississippi!
  34. BichionFrise
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    BichionFrise - July 13, 2014 8:27 am
    My heart goes out to this young man's family and friends. It is quite a shock when you lose a child. I do have a few questions though...dogs lost his scent by the Logger's field right? Then why was he found up river by the I 90 bridge.....the Mississippi flows south not explain how that happened.
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