UPDATE: Emergency effort under way to locate St. Louis River swimmer in Jay Cooke ParkCarlton County law enforcement officials are currently on the scene of a possible drowning incident in the St. Louis River near Jay Cooke Park.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
At approximately 8:15pm, rescuers on scene at Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton County located the body of the 24-year-old male reported missing earlier in the evening. The body was recovered in about 8-10 feet of water in the St. Louis River.
The name of the drowning victim is being withheld pending notification of relatives.
At approximately 4:50 p.m. Monday, a female called 911 reporting that a 24-year-old male that she was swimming with in the river was swept away in the water and she believed he was drowning.
Carlton County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to respond, along with the Carlton County Dive/Rescue Team, Carlton Fire, Esko Fire, Wrenshall Fire, DNR Conservation Officers, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, and the Minnesota State Patrol air unit.
As of 6:45 p.m. Monday the male had not been located, according to Sheriff Kelly Lake, and the dive team efforts were just getting under way.
The incident took place at a location along the Munger Bike Trail where a bridge spans the river, flanked by jagged rocks and unpredictable currents. Jay Cooke Park officials have banned the area to swimmers, and a sign to that effect is posted on the bridge as well as along the shoreline, telling of the drowning death of a young person in that very spot a number of years ago who was swept away by the current. The area continues to be popular with young people each summer, however.
Conservation Officer Scott Staples, who patrols the area of the bridge, said he is saddened and discouraged by this most recent incident, saying he makes it a point to patrol that particular area as often as possible and has issued both warnings and citations to people he found jumping and/or swimming there. Staples called it “a huge safety issue.”
“Many people think they know the current in that river,” he said, “but if Minnesota Power should happen to open the gates of the dam, that could increase dramatically and wash swimmers down onto the rocks.
“I’ve chased swimmers out of this spot for five years,” he said, “and they just keep coming back. They’re not only risking their own lives, but also the lives of the people who are called out to respond to an incident like this one.”
Following a brief storm system that moved through the area just prior to the emergency call, the wind was swirling along the course of the river, making the water choppy and the currents unusually strong. Emergency workers were posted in various spots down river to keep an eye out for the lost swimmer.
“I would say we’re most likely looking at a recovery operation at this point,” said Staples.