A college-age man briefly disappeared from downtown La Crosse early Monday morning, prompting authorities to launch search boats in the Mississippi River.
Police found Tyler Pederson of West Salem shortly after 10 a.m. walking near the corner of Fourth and Vine streets, but not before authorities began to wonder whether Pederson had become the latest student to drown in an area river.
Nine intoxicated college-age men have drowned in area rivers since 1997.
The last was Craig Meyers, a 21-year-old Western Technical College student who had a blood-alcohol concentration more than twice the legal limit for driving when he ventured onto ice south of Riverside Park on Feb. 14, 2010.
Pederson, a 23-year-old student at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, was back in town drinking with friends at Howie’s on La Crosse Street Sunday night when he “took off running” after bar time, said his brother Adam Pederson.
“It was around 2:30 a.m. and nobody had seen him,” he said. “We started calling friends. We were just really worried.”
Pederson said he and others spent the night looking for his brother. In a panic, they finally called police after 7 a.m.
“We wanted to give it time in case we found him,” Adam Pederson said.
Police joined the search, and the fire department boats were launched about 10 a.m. near Riverside Park.
“We maybe jumped the gun a little with the river search,” Adam Pederson said. “But it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
It’s not the city’s first false alarm over a college student feared drowned.
In 2008, police launched a search for a 21-year-old UW-Platteville student whose roommates reported him missing during Oktoberfest. He was found several hours later at a La Crosse Street residence.
It was not immediately clear where Tyler Pederson had been all night. Police provided few details on the search.
“He’s fine,” Sgt. Kirk Flatten said, adding that police planned to issue a statement about the incident today.
Pederson left the police station about 11 a.m. accompanied by his parents, both of whom declined comment but expressed gratitude that their son turned up safely.
Tyler Pederson said he was not aware people were looking for him.
Tribune reporters Chris Hubbuch and Patrick B. Anderson contributed to this report.