Two people who were briefly submerged Tuesday on the Cannon River south of Dundas were rescued by first responders after swimming to shore.
Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said the incident is further evidence that people shouldn't tube on the Cannon River due to the number of downed trees caused by last September's tornado. He also cautioned people with canoes and kayaks to reconsider using the river at this time because of high water levels.
“People are not only putting their own lives at risk but the lives of our first responders,” he said. “Some of these areas are not able to navigate easily, and it’s not worth risking your life. These people are very lucky to have survived this incident.”
Dunn said he is aware of other incidents this year in Owatonna and Medford where canoes have capsized.
“I want people to really be cautious,” he said.
Nicole Mars, 45, of Cottage Grove, and Kaleb Mars, 23, of Newport, were not injured, according to the Sheriff’s Office in a press release.
The incident was reported at 6:08 p.m. Tuesday on the 1200 block of Eaton Avenue in Bridgewater Township. According to the Sheriff’s Office, a group of people entered the river near Wilderness Park to ride inner tubes down the river.
“They entered an area that was almost completely covered by downed trees, and two of the tubes deflated when they floated into the trees,” according to the release. “Nicole and Caleb Mars were able to swim to shore after being submerged for a short period of time.”
After they went to the shore, dense woods and a steep bank did not allow them to navigate any further. They had no cellphone. Two other females who were in their group, Michele Olwell, 55, of Faribault, and Faith Rose-Buchta, 45, of Faribault, swam north on the river, exited in a different spot and flagged down help on Highway 3 south of Dundas.
Nicole Mars and Kaleb Mars were rescued by Rice County Water Patrol staff and a DNR officer using a county rescue boat. They were then taken back to Wilderness Park.
Responding agencies included Rice County deputies and water patrol officers, Northfield Fire/Rescue and Northfield ambulance crews.
The Sheriff’s Office noted no one in the group was wearing personal floatation devices.
“Some of these areas are not accessible by land and (made it) very difficult to locate these victims,” said the Sheriff’s Office. “At least one firefighter was treated at the scene from injuries sustained in the search. His injuries are believed to be non-life threatening.”
Franek said the firefighter, Capt. Jesse Faust, who suffered an allergic reaction while searching for the victims, was taken to the emergency room and was feeling better Wednesday.
Northfield Fire Department Fire Chief Gerry Franek said firefighters assisted by using a drone to help find the people who were rescued.
He advised people who are on the water wear floatation devices to prevent drowning and make sure they are safe to prevent any deployment of first responder resources to situations that could have been prevented with proper safety techniques.