Weather Forecast


Two of three children die after sailboat capsizes

Beltrami and Clearwater County sheriff's officials pack up an empty gurney Friday afternoon as a helicopter crew from North Memorial responded after a sailboat capsized on Clearwater Lake, northwest of Debs. A father and three children were in the boat when it capsized. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

DEBS - Two of the three children who went into a frigid lake near here Friday afternoon have died.

The oldest child, 8, has been airlifted to a Minneapolis after emergency responders were able to revive him. The boy is in critical condition, according to Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson.

The boy's siblings, 6 and 2, couldn't be revived after the small sailboat they were in capsized in Clearwater Lake, which straddles the border of Beltrami and Clearwater counties.

Each of the children were unresponsive when they were pulled from the water. The two oldest children were taken to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, and the 8-year-old was airlifted to the Twin Cities.

The 6-year-old died at Sanford in Bemidji, while the 2-year-old was taken to Bagley, where he was treated for several hours before he died.

When the boat capsized, the children were with their father, Dan Risland, who was able to swim to the shore. He summoned help about 3:15 p.m. Friday.

Erickson said the children were wearing life jackets and are believed to have died from hypothermia.

Officials notified the children's mother, Ruth Risland of Bemidji.

"No foul play was expected in this terrible accident and we are deeply saddened," Erickson said in a news re-lease Saturday. "We were all struck terribly by this tragedy."

Erickson said more details will be made available after authorities complete their investigation.

WCCO TV reported the 8-year-old was taken to Minneapolis' Children's Hospital. Risland also is at the hospital.

The station reported Risland told authorities that strong winds toppled the small sailboat. He tried to get the three children to shore after the boat capsized, but ran into difficulty because of winds and current that were both too strong. The man then decided to leave the three children in the water with their life jackets on and go get help. He swam to shore and found a truck that called 911.

Erickson told WCCO that the first child was out of the water within 30 minutes of the call, but the father said the kids had already been in the water 15 to 20 minutes. One child was pulled from the water 100 yards from shore and another was pulled 300 yards from shore.

In addition to sheriff's officials from Beltrami and Clearwater counties, emer-gency personnel from Sanford Bagley Ambulance, Bemidji Ambulance Service, Clearbrook Fire Department, Clearbrook Police Department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, North Country First Responders and others responded to the call.

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said critical incident counseling was being offered to all the first responders, who were hit hard by the tragedy.

The lake, west of Debs and north of Leonard, is south of the Bagley Lake State Wildlife Management Area.

The air temperature around the time of the incident in the area of the lake was at 59 degrees, with southeast winds at 22 miles per hour. However, water temperatures are significantly lower. Though it has been an early ice out on lakes, water temperatures are in the 40s or lower.