DULUTH, Minnesota – Two boys, ages 13 and 14, swimming in the swollen Lester River Wednesday afternoon were swept away by the creek’s powerful current and took a walk over a small waterfall before managing to climb to the top of a island.
Passers-by were quick to report that the children were stranded in the middle of the river, with raging water making it impossible for them to reach the shore. Members of the Duluth Fire Department arrived on scene approximately 3 minutes after dispatch.
Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Edwards said the children were a little shaken but otherwise in good shape on a 15- to 20-foot-long island near the second Superior Street parking lot in Lester River. Road.
He estimates that the island was about 12 to 14 feet from a steep bank on the east side of the river. Firefighters were able to throw life jackets at the children while they formulated a plan.
“There was some self-awareness there to get to that island, even as young as they are and with the bad decision they made today to go swimming. They certainly were major factors in their own survival,” Edwards said.
With the children waiting on safe ground, Edwards said firefighters were lucky to be able to communicate with the two and take their time, an unusual luxury in water rescue calls that often mean rushing into dangerous conditions.
“I thought the worst thing we can do is make this worse by getting the kids or one of our members in trouble,” Edwards said.
He stationed several firefighters downriver dressed in rescue suits in case something went wrong, and a rapid-deployment inflatable rescue boat was also at the ready.
The firefighters were then able to lower a ladder over the river to essentially serve as a bridge. “Then we sent out ropes with the rescue swing and instruct the children on how to put on the rescue swing,” Edwards said, describing the children as calm, collected and fully capable of what was largely self-rescue. .
With water temperatures likely near freezing in a river fed by rapidly melting snow, Edwards said hypothermia was a concern, but once the boys reached dry land on the island, the warm temperatures and Wednesday’s sunshine they reduced their fears that it would become a factor in the bailout.
“It would have been another story if the children were clinging to a rock and in the water,” he said.
Edwards encourages people to stay away from running water at this time of year, when the power of the current may not be immediately apparent.
Now everyone has spring fever. We’ve had a tough winter and everyone wants to get out and enjoy the good weather. But with melting ice and snow feeding fast-flowing rivers throughout the city, it can be dangerous if you don’t really think about what you’re doing,” he said, noting that slippery riverside paths can be treacherous at this time of day. . year, too.
Fortunately, no one was injured during the rescue on Wednesday, which took about an hour to complete.
Edwards said the confluence of Amity Creek and the Lester River in east Duluth is a location local firefighters know all too well.
“This place is one we get called to frequently, and it’s always a dangerous place to swim, but especially with all the flood risks that spring runoff brings,” he said. “Thanks to the quick response from Duluth Fire and DPD, and the quick thinking and observation of these two children, they are safe today. But the story of these rescues on the Lester River has not always been successful, and especially when the river runs fast, it can become extremely dangerous very quickly.”