Eight people from Boy Scout group rescued after canoes capsize in Boundary Waters
Eight people from a Boy Scout camp -- three adults and five children -- were rescued from a lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Thursday after their canoes capsized in cool, blustery conditions.
Eight people from a Boy Scout camp - three adults and five children - were rescued from a lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Thursday after their canoes capsized in cool, blustery conditions.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office reported that dispatchers received a call for help at Basswood Lake, on the Canadian border northeast of Ely, at about 4 p.m. Thursday.
There were three canoes on a regular route for Boy Scouts and leaders out of the Northern Tier camp on Moose Lake, said Kevin Dowling, general manager at Northern Tier.
Anthony Bermel, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, was one of the first rescuers to reach a group of five found on shore in the Canadian portion of the lake. Bermel said two canoes capsized and the group drifted to shore. The other group of three drifted in their canoe to an island, he said. They were spotted first and were picked up by a float plane.
Strong winds came up suddenly on Basswood, Bermel said. Winds were gusting in excess of 30 mph at times on Thursday afternoon, with temperatures in the 40s and occasional rain.
One of the adult leaders used a base radio to call in the emergency, which was first relayed to authorities in Canada. The other canoe drifted until they reached land, Dowling said.
Bermel said the capsized group looked OK, and even had a tent set up. They were prepared with survival gear and all had been wearing life jackets.
“They still looked wet,” he said. “They were happy to see us.”
Their canoes were on shore. Bermel said it was the type of weather Thursday where the water temperature might have been warmer than the air.
A multi-agency rescue response, including boats, helicopters and floatplanes, successfully rescued the group. Six were flown out on a U.S. Forest Service floatplane and two were brought by boat to a public landing on Moose Lake near LaTourell’s Resort, the sheriff’s office reported. All were rescued by 8:30 p.m. and treated at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital.
Bermel said it was a “lengthy haul” motoring up Moose Lake and hooking northwest onto Basswood. Rescuers had to motor in part of the BWCAW that bans motors. Emergencies trump that rule, he said. His group took two canoeists back to the Moose Lake staging area by boat. The others were picked up by the float plane.
Dowling said Friday morning that relatives of the scouts have been contacted but would not release any more information about the group. Everyone involved was doing fine Friday morning, Dowling said.
The rescue effort involved Lake County deputies and rescue squad members, the U.S. Forest Service, Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Ontario Provincial Police, Ely Ambulance and Babbitt Ambulance, among others.
Dowling, who has been at Northern Tier for six years, said authorities have always had a good relationship with the camp.
“We’re very thankful,” he said.
There is extensive training for staff in case of such emergencies, he said. There will be a debriefing about the incident with those involved, he said.
“We worked the plan and everything worked,” Dowling said.
The DNR’s Bermel said the emergency was a lesson on how conditions can quickly change in the Boundary Waters.
“It’s a good reminder,” he said.