It was a tragic and deadly weekend for some Minnesota families who sought refuge from the heat in lakes and rivers, as water-related incidents claimed four lives and left one seriously injured.
In separate incidents, from lakes in northern Minnesota to the St. Croix River near the Twin Cities, authorities have recovered the bodies of three men since Friday who drowned while recreating with friends and family. In Anoka County, a 2-year-old was airlifted to Children's Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis on Saturday evening after being found unresponsive in a pond. Another man had to be resuscitated and flown to a hospital after he lost control while water skiing on a lake and suffered a serious blow to his head.
On Sunday evening, a 9-year-old was reported missing at Carver Lake Park Beach in Woodbury. A police officer dove into the lake and found the child, who was later pronounced dead.
The rash of drownings and near-drownings come as thousands of Minnesotans have flocked to lakes, rivers and pools to escape the record-setting heat that has blanketed the state for much of the past two weeks. The tragedies have cast a shadow over what otherwise has been a celebratory return to normalcy after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions. As coronavirus infections decline and vaccination rates rise, Minnesotans have been eager to return to public spaces and the summer rituals of fishing, swimming and exploring the outdoors.
In the waters of Long Lake, near the town of Remer in northern Minnesota, a 24-year-old man from Chaska had to be pulled into a boat by friends and family on Friday morning after he struck his head while water skiing and lost consciousness. Deputies with the Cass County Sheriff's Office performed CPR until the man regained his pulse, and he was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in the Twin Cities. The Sheriff's Office did not respond Sunday to calls seeking information about the man's condition.
Near midnight that same day, authorities in Aitkin County were responding to a report of a man who had fallen off a pontoon on Big Sandy Lake near Hillcrest Resort in Shamrock Township. Witnesses said that the man, Nathen Norman Waldo, 34, of North Branch, was swept underneath the boat as it continued forward and they believed that Waldo was struck by the motor. Deputies and fire department responders searched the shoreline but were initially not able to find Waldo. Crews returned the following day and recovered his body in about 30 feet of water late Saturday afternoon, according to the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office.
The driver of the boat, Joshua Mark Harvey, 34, of Maplewood, was arrested and charged with operating a boat while intoxicated. Harvey remains in custody ahead of his first court appearance.
Just hours after that discovery, Stearns County officials were patrolling the popular Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park when they were notified that an individual had jumped off a floating dock into the waters and never surfaced. A diver quickly found the man, Zakariya Aden Odowa, 18, of St. Cloud, in about 25 feet of water. First responders tried to revive Odowa, but he was rushed to St. Cloud Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Tragedy struck again on Saturday when a 46-year-old father from Plymouth died while splashing in the St. Croix River at William O'Brien State Park. Authorities said that Chandra Mohan Laghuvaram was swimming in water 4 to 6 feet deep when he went under. The man was at the park with family members.
As of June 6, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had counted six fatalities related to boating accidents — the most boating-related fatalities at this point in the year in at least the past decade, according to DNR data. The tragedies are spread across many age groups and the victims tend not to be wearing life jackets, state records show. In a May 29 incident, a 36-year-old drowned after jumping into the water to save his girlfriend. Earlier in May, an 88-year-man from Cochrane, Wis., drowned in the Mississippi River after falling overboard from his motorboat.