Two Wisconsin men died Tuesday after one jumped into Lake Superior to save the other near the Bluefin Bay resort in Tofte, Minn.
Authorities said Evan Alexander Johnson, 40, went into the lake to cool off Tuesday around 3 p.m. after relaxing in a hot tub. When waves swept him away from the shore, Wayne Louis Hoffman, 66, jumped in after him and also became trapped in the water, authorities said.
The attempted rescue drew in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, fire and rescue teams from Tofte, Lutsen and Grand Marais, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Minnesota Department of Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Airforce from Winnipeg. A Coast Guard helicopter crew from the air station in Traverse City, Michigan, was also requested but couldn’t respond because of ice conditions.
Rescue teams pulled Johnson from the water around half an hour later and took him to Cook County North Shore Hospital, where the Menomonie resident later died. An ice rescue team from the Coast Guard station in Duluth, 80 miles south, also raced to rescue Hoffman, of Spring Green.
After receiving a report of waves six feet high, the team launched a 25-foot response boat in Taconite Harbor, according to Garrett Kravitz, chief petty officer of the Coast Guard station in Duluth. With dark settled in, Canadian authorities dropped flares by aircraft to illuminate the scene. Authorities did five miles of searches along the shofre from Tofte to Schroeder before finding Hoffman seven hours after he entered the water. He was 400 yards offshore.
“There was poor weather: It was extremely dark, six foot swells, maybe a couple hundred yards visibility,” said Kravitz. “You do the best you can.”
First responders performed CPR on Hoffman but he was already dead.
“It’s a rare occurrence, especially this time of year,” said Kravitz. “Generally there’s ice .. on the shore. There’s generally not people on the water or near the water this time of year.”