As recovery continues, victims' relatives grapple with enormity of their lossby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Paul Eickstadt drove a delivery truck for Sara Lee Bakery for 14 years. He was just beginning his shift, on his way to Iowa when the 35W bridge collapsed. His truck fell forward, bursting into flames, and dangled dramatically between two sections of concrete.
Eickstadt is survived by a brother and two sisters. His co-workers are also feeling his loss.
"Paul is described by his supervisors as a reliable employee who always, no matter what the circumstances, got the job done," company spokesman spokesman Mark Goldman said. "He had a great attitude about service to the company and his fellow co-workers"
Rescue divers continued to work throughout the day Friday, searching for more victims. But operations are slow-going because of dangerous river currents and debris. They were able to inspect at least six cars but have found no additional bodies.
At a late evening press conference, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek described the conditions for the divers. He says visibility is limited to about a foot. Divers are searching inside vehicles with their hands for the bodies of missing victims. Stanek also said the debris is still shifting so much, it pops and cracks around the divers as they work.
Police officials are now backing off from their original estimates of the number of people still missing. One woman originally listed as missing showed up safe Friday at work. All of the injured have now been identified.
The divers have so far located about 60 vehicles at the scene. Rescue divers are recording license plate numbers to aid in the search for the missing.
Among Sadiya Sahal, 23, and her two-year-old daughter. Sahal is also five months pregnant. Relatives say she called home Wednesday evening to say she was stuck in traffic on the bridge.
That was her last phone call.
For the families whose loved ones were killed in the disaster, the tragic news is still sinking in.
The four others so far confirmed dead are Julia Blackhawk, 32, of Savage, Sherry Lou Engebretsen of Shoreview, Patrick Holmes of Mounds View and Artemio Trinidad of Minneapolis.
Abundia Martinez is Trinidad's wife. The two are originally from Mexico though Trinidad has lived in Minnesota for about 10 years and has worked at New York Plaza Produce in South Minneapolis for almost a year.
Manager Julio Alvarado says New York Plaza Produce has stepped in to help with all of the necessary arrangements. Abundia speaks no English, has no family in Minnesota and she has a newborn baby at home.
"I could say I owe Artemio a lot," he said. "He has contributed, within these eight months, a lot to the company. We work as a family here and as such I think it's our responsibility to do at least a funeral service for him, especially since the spouse doesn't speak English and has no other relatives."
Martinez could barely speak through her tears as she described what her husband's loss means to her.
"He was an example of the best husband you could have. He was my other half. And like I say, the other half is my children," she said.
Trinidad was a salesman at New York Plaza Produce. Manager Alvarado says he was so professional and so personable that customers personally requested him.
"He created a certain relationship with customers that most of them, they preferred to deal directly with him rather than any of the other sales representatives here."
Company owner Vicente Alvarado says Trinidad is irreplaceable and will be sorely missed.
The future is uncertain for Trinidad's wife. She has lived in the United States for only about a year and since the couple's baby is just two months old, she isn't working.
New York Plaza Produce has set up an account at USBank under Trinidad's name to collect donations for the family. They're raising money to send his body to Mexico and pay for a funeral in his hometown.