Minnetonka couple's dream canoe trip turns to nightmare

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 7, 2013 - 1:31 PM

Plunged into frigid waters on Sunday, Elaine Barber thought, “I have to make it.” Her husband didn’t.

hide

Dick Barber, 78, was lost Sunday in the cold Basswood River when he and his wife, Elaine, capsized while on a three-week canoe trip.

Photo: ., Family photo

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Headed to her dream wilderness lake on the first leg of a three-week canoe trip, Elaine and Dick Barber paddled into the Basswood River rapids just as they had done a decade ago.

On that July day, the Minnetonka couple had easily navigated the canoe through the rippling rapids in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario. But on Sunday, the water was high and fast. So rather than hug the left side of the rapids as they had done before, they went right, where Dick Barber, 78, thought the water looked calmer.

“But it dropped, like a waterfall, and it took us down,” Elaine Barber, 75, said Thursday evening. The canoe capsized; the packs and the Barbers spilled out into the frigid water. Elaine Barber, her life jacket zipped on, grabbed one of the rubberized packs and swam to shore.

“I kept thinking, ‘I have to make it,’ ” Elaine Barber said. “The water is cold enough it’s not going to be good if you stay in it very long. I just assumed my husband would follow right behind me.”

In the midst of the scramble to safety, the couple, who had been together for 31 years, married for 19, called out to one another.

She yelled for him to come in her direction. He yelled, “I can’t move.”

Standing on shore, she continued to scream: “Come here. Come here.”

She thought about swimming out to him but “I thought it might take both of us down.” So she called out again. “Come this direction. Swim. Swim.”

She heard only the wind and water.

“I was pretty sure he went down,” she said.“Everything is such a blur.”

But she knows she soon spotted the canoe, swam to it and gathered the packs. She dug out the emergency locator that her four sons insisted she and her husband carry on their wilderness trips. She sent out a distress signal, changed into dry clothes, set up her tent and waited.

Dusk fell and the roar of a plane came overhead. Barber grabbed “two red things,” and waved. And waved. “But they couldn’t see me.”

Wrestling with questions

She climbed into her sleeping bag and spent a restless night.

“The big question that will always haunt you is should I have taken the risk to get out there to him without the canoe,” she said Thursday night. “But we both probably would have been dead. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t second-guess myself over and over.”

Finally, morning broke. She waited for a heavy fog to lift, then sent another distress signal. Within 20 minutes, Barber heard a helicopter overhead and within moments a rescue team had landed on the island. Loading her and the gear into the helicopter, they rose above Basswood and began the journey to a hospital in Atikokan, Ontario.

“As we left, an eagle flew under us,” she said. “I told the pilot, he was wishing us well.”

Back home in Minnetonka Thursday, the Episcopal minister who also works as a substitute teacher at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, remembered her husband, a retired advertising executive.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 Top 9th Inning
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Seattle 8
Cleveland 9 Bottom 9th Inning
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 8th Inning
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
Washington 0
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 28 2nd Half 16:11
Siena 49
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
George Mason 41 2nd Half 3:44
Saint Josephs 63
Arizona 24 2nd Half
UCLA 37
Texas State 39 2nd Half 15:07
Appalachian St 43
TX-Arlington 40 2nd Half 15:43
Georgia Southern 13
SC State 13 1st Half 7:33
Bethune-Cookman 14
Delaware State 23 2nd Half
Coppin State 38
Portland 19 1st Half 3:21
Santa Clara 31
Norfolk State 15 1st Half 3:44
Hampton 23
NC A&T 33 1st Half 4:55
NC Central 11
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close