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Boy 'comfortable and safe' during recovery; Clearwater County sheriff expects no criminal charges in sailboat accident

Isaiah Risland coughed and tried sitting up from his bed Wednesday at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, providing more positive signs the 8-year-old is recovering from hypothermia.

The boy, who spent about an hour Friday in 40-degree water until first responders could get to him, could also undergo important brain tests by the weekend.

"He is now sedated again to keep him comfortable and safe, but now we know what he can do," Sara Staley, an aunt, wrote in an online journal.

Also on Wednesday, Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson said he's met with County Attorney Richard Mollin about the investigation and doesn't expect criminal charges against Dan Risland, the boy's father.

"Putting him in jail or making him a criminal isn't going to solve anything," Erickson said. "He lost two sons."

Risland was sailing in a 10-foot boat Friday afternoon when it toppled in Clearwater Lake, which is along the border of Beltrami and Clearwater counties.

Risland and his three boys - Isaiah, 6-year-old Zach and 2-year-old Jacob - were thrown into the water about 3 p.m.

Risland told authorities he was unable to get the boys to shore because of the wind and strong lake current.

He had the children form a human chain in the water, from smallest to largest, and each child held on to another's ankles. When Risland was unable to pull them to shore, he swam and flagged down someone to call 911.

First responders pulled the three boys from the water, but were unable to revive the two youngest brothers.

Sheriff Erickson described the vessel as a white 1972 homemade sailboat with a 14-foot aluminum mast. The boat is licensed to someone else, whom Erickson declined to identify.

The sheriff said he's received calls from people inquiring about possible charges in the case.

"(Risland) certainly had no (criminal) intent," Erickson said. "It was an accident... Certainly, it was a poor choice on his part to go out in cold weather. He was doing everything he thought he should do."

The sheriff said deputies are waiting for the weather to cooperate before retrieving the boat from the lake, which will require the use of sonar equipment to locate it.

Staley has provided several daily updates on Isaiah's CaringBridge journal, which has had more than 12,000 visits and nearly 400 people sign the guestbook.

"The doctor was in (Wednesday) morning," Staley wrote in one entry. "Isaiah's liver is doing better, but his kidneys are still not functioning well. This is to be expected with this kind of an injury.

"He has increased EEG functions measuring his brain activity. We family have noticed that when Mommy and Daddy cuddle him or talk to him the activity increases. This is a hopeful sign."

Staley also said Isaiah's lungs need to heal before doctors can perform tests to measure what, if any, brain injury the boy suffered.

Justin Theodotou, a spokesman for Children's Hospital, said Dan Risland and Isaiah's mother, Ruth Risland, are withholding comment for now, instead focusing on Isaiah's recovery.

A fund has been set up to help the family. Donations can be sent to the Dan Risland fund, Country Faith Church, P.O. Box 41, Clearbrook, MN 56634.

There also will be a benefit for Isaiah, Zach and Jake Risland from 3-7 p.m. April 21 at the Evangelical Covenant Church, 5405 Hart Lane NW, Bemidji.

The benefit includes a spaghetti dinner, bake sale and an auction.


Visit Isaiah Risland's CaringBridge page online at aiahrisland