Two college rowers and a pair of coaches pulled an injured woman from a tangle of trees along the Mississippi River shoreline in Minneapolis on Wednesday morning and handed her over to emergency medical personnel.
The woman, wearing only a T-shirt and underpants and no shoes, was spotted by one of the University of Minnesota coaches about 7:15 a.m. among trees south of the Lake Street Bridge.
Head coach Wendy Davis, assistant Peter Morgan and two offseason camp rowers helped save the woman, who was conscious and suffering from a broken leg, effects of hypothermia and possibly broken ribs.
“I can’t imagine her lasting much longer,” Morgan said. “There are not many people on the river. We are very thankful we were there.”
The rescuers said they had difficulty estimating the woman’s age, given that she had a purplish-blue hue from being in the water. Their guesses ranged from the mid-20s into the 40s.
Authorities spoke with the woman near the river and were trying to verify her account of the incident, Davis said. The agency in charge of the investigation, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, declined to reveal the woman’s name or even her approximate age, but did say she is from Minneapolis.
Davis said she was in a motorized coach’s boat with first-year rowers Emily Stock of Minnesota and Emily Johansen of Harvard and spotted the woman “kind of close to shore. It looked like she was wading in the water, about waist deep. She was in a bunch of trees.”
Davis’ first thought was that the woman “just wanted to wade in the water” and noted that the men’s rowing team had just passed by “and thought the same thing I did.”
She said she soon realized “that she’s clearly injured and clearly caught in the tree.”
Davis said she and the rowers motored over to the woman and got her partly into their boat. The three could get the woman into the boat only as far as her waist.
“They held onto her,” Davis said of Stock, a Prior Lake High School graduate, and Johansen, an Edina High School grad. “The current was so strong. They were the muscle.”
Morgan then arrived in his motor boat and hoisted the woman fully into Davis’ boat by her legs.
Davis said the woman “thought she broke some ribs, and she had clearly broken one of her legs.”
The woman said “she went in near the Weisman Museum,” Davis added. “That’s a good 3 miles upstream.”
Morgan said he overheard the woman tell medical personnel that she “fell into the river the night before on the East Bank.”
She was “borderline hypothermic and very banged up,” Morgan continued. “She had shorts on but said they came off in the course of being in the river.”
Morgan said that in his 15 years of coaching, the past three at the U, “I’ve come across my share of dead bodies. This is the first person I’ve ever pulled out alive. So it was gratifying in that sense.”
Davis said that in 14 years as a coach at the U this also is her first water rescue.
“My husband [John] had one last year” while coaching at the Minneapolis Rowing Club, she said. “Now we’re even.”