A part of Michelle Sanvig had hoped over the past month that her son was still alive, but the discovery last week of a body in the St. Croix River brought an end to that.
The body had the same hairstyle and shoes as her son, who fell into the river during a hike April 11 and had been missing ever since. All that remained was Sunday evening's confirmation by the Chisago County Sheriff's Office: D'Andre Sanvig — the second oldest of 10 siblings — died at age 18.
"Part of me did hope that this wasn't real, but I also knew that it was," said his mother, who is traveling from Denver to arrange a funeral.
Sanvig's death was ruled a drowning by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office, Chisago Sheriff's Capt. Derek Anklan said in a statement.
Sanvig had moved a year ago to live with his grandmother in Luck, Wis. He was scheduled to graduate from high school this spring and complete training as an auto mechanic. His mother owned a construction company, and she said her son had learned to fix things at an early age.
She said Sunday that two things quickly became apparent were when Sanvig was a toddler: He loved cars and people.
"The best way to describe D'Andre is he was the bright light that lit up a room," his mother said.
She still has many questions about what happened after her son reportedly fell into a rocky section of the river and was swept away by a swift spring current. His body was found more than a mile from that spot.
High school students and staff from Andover were canoeing and at 11 a.m. Friday reported finding his body floating in the river south of Taylors Falls, according to the Sheriff's Office. Crews recovered the remains and transferred them to the medical examiner for an autopsy.
"We are grateful his family is able to move towards closure from this situation," Anklan said.
A graduation ceremony took place in Sanvig's absence at Unity High School in Balsam Lake, Wis., and relatives from the Twin Cities attended.
Recalling their final FaceTime chat, his mother said she told him how proud she was, and he talked excitedly about plans to get a car and paint it his favorite color, a deep metallic purple.
"I guess when I got the call from the coroner ... that they found the body, it kind of set in, you know. Now it's real real," she said.
"It's going to take a lot for everyone to really heal from this."