Man drowns at Jay CookeA 24-year-old man drowned in the Jay Cooke Park area of the St. Louis River on Monday. He has been identified as Samuel James Sanchez-Eno, age 24, of Duluth.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
A 24-year-old Duluth man drowned in the Jay Cooke Park area of the St. Louis River on Monday. He has been identified as Samuel James Sanchez-Eno, age 24, of Duluth and Cloquet. Sanchez-Eno attended Cloquet Middle School and Cloquet High School.
At approximately 8:15p.m., rescuers on the scene located Sanchez-Eno’s body, reported missing earlier in the evening, in about 8-10 feet of water along the south shore of the river. According to Sheriff Kelly Lake, three members of the Carlton County Dive team conducted a “methodical search” over a large portion of the river just downstream from where Sanchez-Eno disappeared earlier while swimming with a female companion.
Lake praised the efforts of the rescue team.
“That particular stretch of the river has varying depths and is extremely rocky,” said Lake, adding that the water of the river is also very turbid, making it impossible to see under water.
Emergency responders had been on the scene since a call came in at approximately 4:50 p.m. from a female reporting that Sanchez-Eno had been swept away in the water and she believed he was drowning.
The woman, who is from Superior, told investigators she and Sanchez-Eno had been swimming across the river just below the bridge along the Munger Trail. They made it across the river once but on their second crossing Sanchez-Eno began to struggle, and the woman said she tried to help him but couldn’t. She then returned to shore to call for help.
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.
Jay Cooke Park officials have long 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.”
The Northland has experienced an unusual string of water emergencies during temperature spikes this summer, including six drownings between July 9 and Aug. 2.
The temperature in the Carlton County area rose to near 80 degrees on Monday. Following a brief storm system that moved through the area in late afternoon, the wind was swirling along the course of the St. Louis 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 until the recovery was made.
Lake applauded the joint effort of the emergency crews who responded to the incident, especially in such difficult terrain and conditions.
“We were thankful to have found the victim, though it wasn’t the outcome we wanted to see,” said Lake. “I can’t stress enough the danger of swimming in that particular area, much less the fact that it is illegal. Even on days when the surface of the water looks like it’s not too bad, the current can be very strong underneath the surface. It can’t be underestimated.”