Boy Scout party from Ohio rescued in BWCA after storm overwhelms canoes

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2014 - 11:17 PM

Canoes were overcome by choppy waters on a lake.

hide

Officials describe the BWCA rescue during a press conference Friday, June 13, 2014.

Photo: YouTube screengrab,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The two Boy Scout leaders stood under the shade of towering trees near the shore, soaking wet and forced to abandoned their canoe in a Boundary Waters lake. Their strobe light flashed in hopes of catching someone’s attention.

Minutes later, a State Patrol helicopter whirred above with rope dangling, then lifted the men — and their spirits — to safety and a reunion with the six other Ohio adventurers whose canoes were overwhelmed Thursday afternoon on a windswept and misty Basswood Lake.

“They were happy to see us,” said St. Paul Fire Capt. Alan Gabriele, who is part of the Twin Cities-based Minnesota Air Rescue Team (MART), which since 2012 has pulled off four airborne rescues around the state.

The drama unfolded on an open expanse of the lake, north of Ely and within shouting distance of the Canadian border, and left five Scouts, their two leaders from back home and a locally based Scout leader soggy but relieved to be alive and shaking off mild hypothermia.

Justin Mayne, a captain with the Lake County Rescue Squad, said all eight were in the water at some point and had on life jackets, and “without those, we probably would’ve had a very different outcome.”

Mayne added that “it was getting pretty dark out there,” but he and the others were ready to work through the darkness if there were still lives to be saved.

The Scouts, ages 15 to 17, and their two leaders were from a troop based in the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester. They brought a satellite phone with them into the rugged wilderness, which is famous for being unkind to cellphone reception. That phone was how the group got word out that there was trouble.

“The last thing I said before he left was, ‘Keep my boys safe,’ ” said Diana Hudson, whose husband, Howard, was on the adventure with her twin 15-year-old sons, Jake and Grant Lemen.

Hudson, who spoke with her 55-year-old husband once he had dried off, said her family members were in the canoe that capsized when “a big storm came up,” while the other canoe was pushed to a shoreline by relentless winds and waves.

“My husband was in the water for about an hour before someone [in the group] grabbed him and pulled him to shore,” she said, adding that his rescue did not require a ride on the helicopter rope.

“He’s a survivalist,” she said. “He knows what he’s doing up there.”

Safe by 7 p.m.

Mayne said the first call that the canoes were in trouble and missing came about 4:20 p.m. Within 30 minutes the searchers, using LaTourell’s Resort on Moose Lake as a base, found three of the missing canoeists near Canadian Point.

Barely a half-hour later, according to Mayne, the other five were spotted on land just north of Washington Island.

Gabriele, who coordinated the operation while aboard the helicopter, said the two adults were spotted through the dense and tall tree canopy thanks to a strobe light they had along on their adventure. “It can be nearly impossible to find them without a strobe,” Gabriele said.

The float plane on the scene couldn’t get to the two because the waves were so high, and the state Department of Natural Resources “tried to land a boat [but was stymied] because of the rocky shoreline and the wave conditions,” said Dave Willar, a State Patrol pilot who kept the helicopter steady during the airlift mission.

So they tried “shore hauling,” in which the helicopter hovered over the targeted area. The two Scout leaders swung at the end of the rope for a quarter-mile, strapped in and staring at the face of a rescuer and then delivered to a float plane that took them to safety, said one of the chopper’s crew members.

“Everyone was accounted for and safe” before 7 p.m., said State Patrol Lt. Matt Nelson, who heads MART. Soon after, they were checked out at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital.

  • related content

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close