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Iowa community finds unity, tribute for Denison teen

Denison, Iowa (WHO) -- The Crawford County community is still reeling after five teens crashed and a 15-year-old died in the Boyer River.

"It's been a long hard ride for all of us," said Crawford County Sheriff James Steinkuehler.

Fifteen-year-old Yoana Acosta, along with 4 others, crashed on Jan. 19. Everyone but Yoana escaped the car and the waist-deep water.

"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.

Ramon Hernandez

Ramon Hernandez

Ramon Hernandez, 25, is charged with vehicular homicide, selling a controlled substance to minors and supplying alcohol to individuals who are underage and other traffic violations.

The Daily Times Herald in Carroll reports he was driving around with the teenagers in a car when he crashed at around 3 a.m. into the river.

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."

Finally, Yoana was found Jan. 26. She was pulled from the river nearly 2.5 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.

The Crawford County community is still reeling. "It's been a long hard ride for all of us," said Crawford County Sheriff James Steinkuehler (CNN)

The Crawford County community is still reeling. "It's been a long hard ride for all of us," said Crawford County Sheriff James Steinkuehler (CNN)

Now, they are hoping Yoana can help them come together for one more cause. A $40,000 for a boat will have a special name, and would equip the local rescuers with sonar - something they didn't have when looking for Yoana.

"In memory of Yoana Acosta. That really hit home to all of us," 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, Feb. 11, 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.