Two Wisconsin men died Tuesday after one jumped into Lake Superior to save the other near Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte, at the northeastern tip of Minnesota.
Six-foot waves swept away Evan Alexander Johnson, 40, when he went into the lake around 3 p.m. to cool off after relaxing in a hot tub, authorities said. As Wayne Louis Hoffman, 66, jumped in to try to rescue Johnson, the lake pulled him in, too.
“It’s a rare occurrence, especially this time of year,” said Garrett Kravitz, chief petty officer of the Coast Guard station in Duluth. There’s usually ice on the shore, he said. “There’s generally not people on the water or near the water.”
Emergency responders poured in from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Tofte, Lutsen and Grand Marais fire and rescue teams, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Minnesota Department of Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Air Force from Winnipeg.
Rescue teams pulled Johnson, of Menomonie, Wis., from the water around 30 minutes later and took him to Cook County North Shore Hospital, where he later died.
An ice rescue team from the Coast Guard station in Duluth, 80 miles south, also raced to rescue Hoffman, a resident of Spring Green, Wis.
After receiving a report of 6-foot-high waves, the team launched a 25-foot response boat in Taconite Harbor, according to Kravitz.
As dark blanketed the lake, Canadian authorities dropped flares by aircraft to help the crew see.
Authorities searched for 5 miles along the shore 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, 6-foot swells, maybe a couple hundred yards visibility,” Kravitz said. “You do the best you can.”
A manager at the Bluefin Bay Resort did not return a message.