Boats Capsize on Rainy Lake

By KBJR News 1

August 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2010 at 8:08 AM CDT

Strong winds and large waves on Rainy Lake in Voyageur National Park capsized three boats carrying a family returning from their camping trip.

Those passing by on the lake as well as park officials assisted in the rescue efforts that lasted hours Sunday.

First year assistant at Rainy Lake Visitor center Brett Lyczewski helped respond to a distress call Sunday for three boats that had been capsized.

"I guess the first thing that was going through my mind is just to find out and make sure if there is anybody else is still left in the water and what the situation is currently," said Lyczewski.

On the way to the scene of what was believed to be one boat capsized near the Brule Narrows on Rainy Lake, Lyczewski and Rainy Lake District Ranger David Little had another call come in.

"We received additional information that now three boats were involved, and there were unknown amount of people in the water," said Little.

5 to 6 foot waves and up to 40 mph winds had capsized three boats as they brought back a family who were finishing up a camping trip.

Tom Dougherty was one of many passing by who stopped to assist the boaters.

"There was a great deal of confusion for a while with the number of boats and just who was rescued and who wasn't," said Dougherty.

Altogether 14 people were pulled from the water ranging in age from 8 to 79.

Park officials say Sunday's accident could have ended in tragedy, were it not for the fact that ALL 14 members of the boating party been wearing a life jacket.

"Their personal floatation devices I would venture to say that if they did not have their life jackets on it would have been a much more serious situation," said Voyageur National Park Chief Ranger Jim Hummel

Hummel says being prepared for all types of weather is the best way to avoid ending up in a dangerous situation on any lake.

"Most of the time you won't see the worst when you are out here. But knowing that you take the steps to prepare for the worst will ensure for a safe and healthy outcome," said Hummel.

Park officials remind all water travelers that life vests are REQUIRED for children 12 and under.

Anyone older must have an approved flotation device readily available.