July 16, 2015. Two conservation officers with the Minnesota DNR were among the first responders to an emergency call July 7 inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They joined other first responders from St. Louis and Lake counties after a teenage canoeist from Rochester became trapped in rapids after going over Basswood Falls near the Minnesota-Canadian border.
It took DNR conservation officers Marty Stage and Sean Williams, both of Ely, several hours by motorboat, canoe, and foot to reach the scene, where the initial team was completing rescue lines to the victim and canoe. Together rescuers were able to free the teenager’s foot, get him to shore and begin to warm him up after being submerged in rushing water for nearly six hours.
“He was extremely hypothermic, going in and out of consciousness,” said Williams. “I think his foot was fine, which was amazing-just swollen and bruised.” A State Patrol helicopter later arrived, and the victim was brought to a U.S. Forest Service float plane for transport to the ELy hospital for treatment. Officer Stage said it was a tense situation that could easily have ended badly. “Luckily it was a beautiful warm day with no wind, and there was a lot of time until nightfall.”
The lesson learned once again is not to take unnecessary chances in such a remote wilderness setting, ” Stage said. “Even with today’s technology, when something goes wrong like it did this time, basic tools, some common sense, and other people might still be your best chance for survival.”