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Mother, two children saved from Lake Superior rip current

A member of the Duluth Fire Department rushes a boy wrapped in a blanket to an ambulance after he was rescued by bystanders after getting swept away by a rip current on Lake Superior at the 12th Street Beach on Park Point on Wednesday evening. The boy's sister and mother also were pulled from the lake. (Clint Austin /

A woman and two children were rescued from Lake Superior on Wednesday after they got caught in what meteorologists called a freak rip current.

Although flags flown near the near Park Point's 12th Street Beach were green, meaning conditions did not meet the criteria for rip currents, an 8-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl playing in the water were pulled out about 500 feet from shore, according to Duluth Police information officer Jim Hansen.

Police and fire officials were not able to provide identification of the family Wednesday evening.

The boy's mother reportedly went into the water after them but also got caught in the current and was unable to help the kids or herself.

People on the beach noticed the trio having trouble and called 911 at 5:12 p.m.

"It happened fast," said Steve Elsmore, of Esko, who was at the beach with his wife, Paddy Elsmore.

He said once they realized the mother and children were fighting the current and having no luck, he and his wife grabbed an inner tube and water float and went to help.

"We just jumped in," he said.

When he got to them, he said the look in their eyes was frantic and that it took some effort to get them calmed down and back to shore, even though his arms and legs were fresh.

"It was tiring," Elsmore said. "It took some work."

Duluth police and firefighters arrived shortly after all were back on shore and the three were taken to Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center and treated, Hansen said.

Jesse Schomberg, extension educator for the Minnesota Sea Grant program, was meeting his family on the beach at the time of the incident and said a rip current was visible to the eye.

"They were in a rip current -- absolutely," he said.

Rick Hluchan, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth, said the conditions did not meet the criteria for a yellow or red flag warning, but after Schomberg reported the incident, they changed the flags to yellow.

Water safety experts advise swimmers caught in rip currents to swim parallel to shore, out of the current, rather than trying to swim straight back through the current.

"Thank God we had a bunch of people here that knew what to do -- get them out by swimming sideways," Schomberg said.