Rescuers on snowmobiles and snowshoes battled 50-mile per hour winds on a snow-swept northern Minnesota lake near the Canadian border to rescue four stranded anglers far from shore, including one in the group who suffered severe dehydration and frostbite.
The drama unfolded on Greenwood Lake over several hours Sunday afternoon and under perilous weather conditions that even the hardiest in the region would call daunting.
“We are grateful we were able to get these folks out alive and that all of the responders are going home safely tonight,” Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen said late Sunday.
“We strongly recommend people heed weather warnings and conditions,” the sheriff continued. “Let people know where you are going and how long you expect to be gone.”
Randall C. Bush, 50, of Cotton, Minn.,“was showing signs of advanced hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration after being on the ice for many hours in extreme conditions,” a statement from the Sheriff’s Office read.
The others in the group were identified as Tamara M. Granlund, 51, of Superior, Wis.; Thomas E. Hudacek, 49, of Maple, Wis.; and Kevin D. Steichen, 54, of St. Cloud.
According to the Sheriff’s Office:
The anglers rode their snowmobiles far out onto the lake only to get stuck in deep slush.
They made phone contact midafternoon with police in Ontario, who relayed the anglers’ dangerous circumstances to Cook County authorities. What the anglers couldn’t figure out was their precise location.
Going on what they had, search and rescue personnel from several agencies were scrambled, but sheriff’s deputies on snowmobiles also fell victim to the slush, reported to be more than a foot deep in spots.
Deputies freed one of their snowmobiles from the slush and were joined by others on larger snowmobiles, along with responders on snowshoes, to restart the search on the expansive lake amid the blinding, blowing snow.
In the meantime, two of the anglers set out on foot in search of respite, but due to “horrible visibility they got turned around and were lost,” according to emergency dispatch logs.
Off-duty state trooper Aaron Schmidt fired up his personal snowmobile, found the two and brought them to safety.
Bush, unable to walk on his own, stayed behind with a fellow angler, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Valerie Marasco. They were picked up with less difficulty than the two on foot.
The responders stabilized Bush’s vital signs while he was taken back to shore. Once on land, he was taken to a hospital on roads that had to specially cleared of drifting snow by a private plow operator.
“We are fortunate to have dedicated emergency response units who risk their own lives going out in conditions like this to rescue strangers, along with our 911 professionals who manage these calls and responder safety from start to finish,” Eliasen said.