When deputies arrived on the scene, the vehicle was indeed empty. The car's owner, Jeremy Gillis, 22, of rural New Richmond, Wisc., was nowhere to be found.
Tracks in the snow near the vehicle zig-zagged across the road and were eventually lost on the blacktop portion, Sheriff John Shilts said.
“We checked the area and even checked the residence of the vehicle’s owner,” Chief Deputy Scott Knudson told the New Richmond News. Calls were also placed to local hospitals in hopes of locating the victim; however, none had admitted Gillis.
When deputies cleared the accident scene at 7:34 a.m., Gillis's family went out looking for him. The family stumbled upon some tracks leading down to the river from County Road T. At about 9 a.m., a family member reported that Gillis had been found floating in the Willow River.
Knudson said it’s unknown how Gillis ended up in the river after the crash.
“Without anyone to tell us what happened, we’re not really sure how he ended up in the river,” he said.
Knudson said it appears Gillis lost control of his vehicle while driving along Country Road K; however, the impact is not what caused Gillis’ death.
"We’re not considering this a traffic fatality,” he said.
On Wednesday, December 7, the Pioneer Press reported that the cause of death had been determined. Police believe that after falling into the water, Gillis was overcome by hypothermia and then drowned.
Sheriff John Shilts had said previously that there was nothing to indicate foul play.
About Jeremy Gillis
Jeremy Joseph Gillis Jeremy was born on May 5, 1989, to Joe and Judy (Kemling) Gillis.
He is survived by his loving son, Kayden Gillis; parents, Joe and Judy Gillis; brothers, Justin Gillis, Jake Gillis; sister, Jessica Gillis; grandparents Ron and Vivian Kemling and Rosemary Gillis; along with Kadyen’s mom and Jeremy’s friend, Jessica Foster.
Jeremy’s true devotion was to his son, Kadyen. He was also exceptionally passionate about dairy farming and spending time with friends.
A mass of Christian Burial was held for Jeremy on Friday, Dec. 9, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Erin Prairie, Wis.
Name/age: Jeremy Joseph Gillis, 22
Residence: New Richmond, WI
Last seen: unknown
Recovered: 12/6/11, Willow River