Western Iowa Tragedy Brings Unity And A Lifelong Tribute For Denison Teen

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DENISON, Iowa -- The Crawford County community is still reeling. "It's been a long hard ride for all of us," said Crawford County Sheriff James Steinkuehler.
Three weeks ago, on January 19th, fifteen year-old Yoana Acosta along with 4 others crashed into The Boyer River.  "They're trying to pull the other ones up at the same time and went to get them up.  When they turned back down she was gone. She was at the waters' edge," said Steinkuehler.  Yoana never resurfaced and search crews couldn't find her.  Crews outside the county included Plymouth County, Sioux County, and cadaver dogs out of Ankeny and Jasper County, among others.

Twenty-five year old Ramon Hernandez was charged with vehicular homicide, selling a controlled substance to minors and supplying alcohol to individuals who are underage and other traffic violations.

The search went on for a week and each night the Sheriff had to hand off the bad news to the Acosta family.  "It was a little easier in the mornings but at night it was harder for me because you could see it in their eyes. I think they thought we were going to quit."

They refused to quit said Steinkuehler. "Our whole goal was to find this young girl and bring closure to the family." 16:44:53
The dedication paid off on Thursday January 26th in the afternoon. "You could see them coming hand in hand beside each other and they were walking," said Steinkuehler as he recalled seeing the search teams in the Boyer River.  Yoana was pulled from the river nearly two and a half miles south of where the car crash occurred seven days earlier. Despite the tragedy search crews believe it brought a sense of Denison pride. "We came as one people. There is nobody here that looked in any other direction than like a human being," said Steinkuehler.

Now they are hoping Yoana can help them come together for one more cause, $40,000 for a boat, that Steinkuehler says will have a special name. "In memory of Yoana Acosta. That really hit home to all of us."
It would equip the local rescuers with sonar, something they didn't have when looking for Yoana. Steinkuehler said, "An investment in our community, this tool may be a lifetime memory for some family in our community if we can save someone's life."

In Denison on Saturday February 11th, a Snow Ball Winter Mixer presented by Hy-Vee will feature live music and all the proceeds will go towards the boat in Yoana's name.  So far the department has raised $13,000.


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