Alex Cook, 18, of Lake Elmo died crossing St. Croix River.
When 18-year-old Alexander Cook of Lake Elmo floundered as he tried to swim across the St. Croix River near Hudson, Wis., on Monday, his girlfriend, brother and two friends swam to his side, trying to help him in the strong current.
But he slipped under, and they lost him in at least 20 feet of water. Cook, who grew up in the Chateau Cimarron mobile home park in Lake Elmo, had just graduated from Stillwater Area High School, and his diploma had been there for him to pick up.
"He didn't even get to see it; I picked it up this morning," said his guardian, Amber Hageman, as she and others left Tuesday morning to go to the funeral home.
Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen said Cook and those with him tried to cross a channel where recent rains have strenthened the current -- and in the general area where others have drowned over the years.
It's at the end of Hudson's Dike Road, just north of the Interstate 94 bridge that connects Minnesota and Wisconsin. It's not far from a popular beach area known as Beer Can Island.
Alex "Cookie" Cook wasn't much of a swimmer, Hageman said. But Monday, he tried swimming from the Wisconsin side to the Minnesota shore. He was about 50 yards into the river when he began flailing and tried to turn back. The others swam back to try to help.
"They were trying to get him to drop his blue jeans, because they believed that was weighing him down," Jensen said. "When we did recover him, he was not wearing his blue jeans, so we figure he got them off. But by then it was probably too late; he was too tired."
Divers from St. Croix EMS/Rescue, Lower St. Croix Valley, Mahtomedi and Scandia were called about 5 p.m. to search the murky depths. St. Croix County authorities, with the help of Washington County sheriff's deputies and a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden, used side-imaging sonar to locate the body at 11:44 p.m.
"Where we found him was just about where people said he went down," the police chief said.
"We would all love to thank everybody that helped tirelessly for hours [Monday] to bring our son home," Hageman said.
Services for Cook will be from 1-6 p.m. Sunday at Mueller-Bies Funeral Home, 2130 N. Dale St., Roseville.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038