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Kayaker rescued from river in Fillmore County

The woman was rescued by the Lanesboro Fire Department Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

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WHALAN — A kayaker was rescued from the Root River near Whalan Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Fillmore County dispatchers received a call around 3:45 p.m. for a report of a kayaker, a woman, who was stuck on the Root River East of Whalan.

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Lanesboro Fire Department Chief Rob Wagner said it was unclear if the woman's daughter, who was also kayaking with the woman, called or if it was a passing motorist.

The woman was hanging onto a tree after her kayak hit the tree, according to Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge. Wagner said that the woman was at a curve in the river where there were two downed trees. The woman's kayak was stuck on one of the trees as well as brush that was under the water.

"With the current that was in that location, the only way that it was going to pull her was underneath," Wagner said, adding that the woman was wearing a life jacket.


When members of the Lanesboro Fire Department arrived on scene, they grabbed ropes and life vests and began crossing the river. Firefighters Jeff Norby and Anthony Schwartz were preparing to use a typical upstream approach when they saw the woman go under the water, Wagner said.

"Obviously we knew it was an emergency situation," Wagner said. "She was in some real trouble — just the length of time she had been hanging there — it had gotten to a point where she was not strong enough to hold herself on that branch."

The pair were able to get the woman's head above water and were assisted by a third firefighter, C.J. Peterson, to free the woman from the "log jam," Wagner said, estimating the time from the call until the woman was rescued was about 10 to 12 minutes.

The woman was evaluated on scene but Wagner was not sure if she needed to be taken to a hospital.

Preston Area Ambulance, the Preston Police Department, and the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Lanesboro Fire Department in its response.

Wagner commended the woman for wearing a life jacket, saying that many who use the Root River don't wear a life jacket. He encouraged others wanting to use the river for recreation to be aware of their surroundings and look ahead because there are often numerous log jams on the river.

"The current has so much power, even someone I would consider strong or above average can easily get fatigued trying to hold themselves against the current," Wagner said. "Know your abilities and try not to take on things you’re not familiar with because it's a dangerous place sometimes."

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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