LAKE CITY, Minn. - There have been three confirmed drownings in Minnesota waters in just two weeks, with fourth death believed to be because of drowning.
The incidents serving as a scary reminder of how our favorite rivers and lakes can turn dangerous.
Wabasha County Sheriff's Office's Chief Deputy Jim Warren helped lead the search one of the recent drowning victims, 69-year-old Terry Woeltge. Woeltge fell into the Mississippi River last Thursday. He wasn't wearing a life jacket when a witness said he fell under water and didn't come back up.
An accident like this isn't something the Chief Deputy has seen too often in his 20 years of serving.
"The first thing that came through my mind was, not again. It's never fun to hear that kind of stuff," he said.
John Van Vliet was sailing on Lake Pepin when Woeltge fell in.
"The wind just built and built and built and it was quite rough even though it was a nice day and the sun was shining.
As I got closer, there were some boats that were trying to douse their sails and deal with the wind, and this boat was one of them. It was clear that somebody was in distress and it was just heartbreaking," he said.
The four incidents are not too uncommon.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, from the start of 2019 to the beginning of July, there have been 14 boating fatalities, 64 non-fatal boating accidents, and 11 non-boating drownings.
"No matter what level of swimmer or survivor you are, always expect the unexpected. I mean the river here is nice and beautiful but it's also very dangerous as well," Chief Deputy Warren said.
He reminds people to always wear a life jacket and to never go out on a boat alone. He also suggests making sure GPS on a person's phone or boat is on before heading out on the water. That way if anything does happen, the boat or person in need of help is easier to locate.
For more ways to stay safe on the water, click here.