A 25-year-old Richfield man threw his life jacket to a friend after their canoe capsized at Snelling Lake in Fort Snelling State Park on Friday, according to family members.
The friend was able to swim to shore. But James Welter at some point went underwater and was later found and taken to United Hospital in St. Paul, where he died that night.
Welter and a friend were out fishing Friday morning when their canoe capsized. A call came in to police dispatchers at 8:40 a.m., according to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. Welter's friend was treated at the scene. Firefighters put a boat out on the lake and recovered Welter, who had slipped underwater.
On Saturday, Welter's father, Ted, said his other sons had talked to the friend who was with him, who told them that Welter had thrown him his life jacket.
"He was quiet and very sweet-natured," Ted Welter said about his son. "He did not have a mean bone in his body."
The family often fishes on the lake in the fall, he said. "I've been taking him down to that lake for 10 years," he said.
The last time Ted Welter saw his son was two weeks ago during a trip to the same lake.
James Welter lived in Richfield with his mother, Dawn Welter. Besides fishing, he loved playing disc golf and riding his bike, his father said. He worked at a manufacturing plant in Minneapolis.
Welter would have celebrated his 26th birthday on Thursday. He died on the four-year anniversary of the death of his grandfather, for whom he was named.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 • Twitter: @stribnorfleet