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Continued: Wet-and-wild rescue on river tops 12 hours

In the end, a visit to Wild River Outfitters in Grantsburg proved to be the answer. Rescuers tied three canoes together, then secured four emergency backboards side by side over the canoes to make a platform. They lifted Rike aboard and floated him down the river, at times lifting and carrying him when conditions warranted.

"The water levels are so low, and there was just no way to navigate the channel," Mansavage said. "They had to take the boat and lift it and take a few steps to avoid getting hung up on the rocks or sandbars. It was quite an ordeal."

Not until the sun came up did rescuers get Rike to safety. Once on shore, they drove Rike half a mile up a steep embankment to where his family was waiting.

"It was pretty emotional," said Carrie Chesnik, a local resident who witnessed the rescue. "He was talking with his mom, and there were tears in his mom's eyes."

An hour after the ambulance rolled down Paint Mine Road under a canopy of trees to nearby Burnett Medical Center in Grantsburg, Tim Harmon stood outside the Grantsburg Fire Department, sweat trickling down his tired face.

"The problem was just lack of access to him," said Harmon, who's been chief of the Volunteer Fire Department for three years. Low water, steep terrain and darkness made the rescue a rough one, he said. Volunteers returned scratched and sore from thrashing through the underbrush.

Rike was able to walk into the emergency room at the hospital for evaluation, said Tim Wick, the hospital's CEO.

"He was really cold because he was in wet clothes all night from being in the river," said Sharon Rike, Martin's mother. "He was tired and hungry, but he was joking and trying to get warm."

Martin Rike said he won't be tubing again anytime soon, if ever. "No rocks, no current, someplace I can hop in and out," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. kgiles@startribune.com • 612-673-7707 harlow@startribune.com • 612-673-7768

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