Student Voice


November 30, 2022



UW-River Falls student found dead

May 4, 2015

Chancellor Dean Van Galen announced in an email to the campus community that UW-River Falls junior Robert “Bobby” Sontag was found dead along the Kinnickinnic River Monday, May 4.

Sontag was last seen at 2 a.m. on Friday, May 1, and was not reported missing until Sunday afternoon.

An investigation swiftly began after he was reported to be missing on May 3, and around noon on Monday, May 4, officials scoured the banks of Lake George as well as the Kinnickinnic River, in which Sontag’s body was eventually discovered and recovered.

According to a phone interview with River Falls Police Department Chief of Police Roger Leque, Sontag was initially identified by a wallet found containing his ID which was discovered on the body.

Sontag was a 20-year-old student from Shafer, Minnesota. He was majoring in dairy science at UWRF.

Before his death, he was last seen around the 400 block of South Main Street (around the area of the local Dairy Queen and Junior’s Bar & Restaurant).

He and a friend were walking home after a night of drinking and they went their separate ways. Two days later, at roughly 3 p.m., Sontag was reported missing to the River Falls Police Department.

Robert Steven Sontag
The body of Robert "Bobby" Steven Sontag, a junior at UW-River Falls, was found in the Kinnickinnic River on Monday. (Photos courtesy of the River Falls Police Department)

Sontag had a past that involved underage drinking. In November of 2012, a police report revealed that he had been caught and fined for drinking in the then-open Prucha Hall.
According to Leque, police are investigating how Sontag came to possess alcohol despite being underage.

“This is a tragic situation, I want to emphasize that,” Leque said. “But because he was underage, we are looking to find out how he got alcohol and from where.”

Authorities are attempting to ascertain which bars Sontag visited prior to his disappearance. Leque declined to discuss exactly how much alcohol was found to be in Sontag’s body, but did acknowledge that it was there.

Sontag’s death is one of several which have occurred in the past under similar circumstances in the Midwest. Reports of students drinking and drowning have been reported at numerous universities including UW-Eau Claire and UW-La Crosse, the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State.

“There is no information to indicate that would be the case,” Leque said in regards to a question about the possibility of the case being a homicide.

Funeral arrangements already have been made. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 13, at the Chisago Lake Lutheran Church in Lindstrom, Minnesota. The visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, at the Grandstrand Funeral Home in Lindstrom.

According to Lucas Nadeau, one of Sontag's friends, t-shirts are also being sold to commemorate Sontag. Each shirt costs $15--$10 of which will be given to the Sontag family. They may be viewed and purchased at

Nadeau, a sophomore at North Branch High School in Minnesota, and some friends came up with the idea to raise money for the Sontags. Nadeau met Sontag in 4H.

"We have made close to $2,000 of profit in less than 24 hours to help the Sontags," Nadeau said in an email. "Bobby was a friend and brother to all of us. Thank you for all the support."

Nadeau and his friends also have silicon bracelets for sale at: The bracelets are $2 each with $1.50 going to the Sontag family.

For people strongly affected by Sontag’s death, UWRF Student Health and Counseling Services may be accessed for free at Hagestad Hall. Counseling Services can also be reached by phone at 425-3884.

Sontag is preceded in death by his uncle Robert S. Bahnemann. He is survived by his parents Steven and Lisa; siblings Jill, Sara and Mark; and grandparents Richard and Shirley Sontag, and Milton and Mary Ann Bahnemann.


Sheri Fowler on 07 May 2015: A college student drowns in the river after a drunken night in the bars, and his friends build a makeshift memorial to him on the bridge near the spot where they found his body: with beer cans, whiskey bottles, and flowers. Perhaps if his friends had discouraged his drinking, he would be preparing for finals rather than his parents preparing his funeral. This is disturbing on so many levels.