Woman drowns after rescuing children in northwest Minnesota

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

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BAGLEY — An 18-year-old woman drowned after pulling several children from turbulent river water below a dam in northwestern Minnesota, authorities said.

The teen and about seven children related to her were sliding over a rushing dam that separates Clearwater Lake and Clearwater River and got caught up in the churning water, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office.

“They use it as a big waterslide,” Sheriff Darin Halverson said Tuesday. “Kids like to do that. … They use tubes or whatever. Lots of times they go over on their own.”

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The young woman pulled several of the youngsters to safety before she went under, witnesses told authorities.

“We probably would have had multiple fatalities,” Halverson told the Star Tribune. “The water is just churning under the dam. … She did her part and saved who she could.”

When the first deputy arrived at the scene in Sinclair Township, an 8-year-old girl had been pulled from the water and initially was unresponsive. Bystanders performed life-saving measures and were able to resuscitate her, KVLY-TV reported.

Bystanders were attempting to revive the woman before paramedics arrived, but she was unresponsive.

Halverson said there are signs at the dam warning people to stay away. The water level was high due to a large amount of recent rain, he said.

“When the water level is lower, it’s not as dangerous,” the sheriff said. “But it’s always dangerous when you are dealing with a dam.”

The water on both sides of the dam are not to be used for swimming, fishing or thrill-seeking, he said.