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Pontooners and deputies honored for saving lives on Little Detroit

Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander gave out awards Tuesday for saving the lives of two people who nearly drowned in Little Detroit Lake on July 7. From left are: Glander, Patrick Fritz, Christopher Fritz, Nathan Rethwisch, Lindsay Anderson, Tracy Rethwisch, Deputy Jerron Aschnewitz and Deputy Cole Sanders. Nathan Bowe/Tribune

Two current deputies along with relatives of former Becker County Sheriff Warren Rethwisch were among those honored for saving the lives of two people on Little Detroit Lake July 7.

The awards were given out at a Becker County Board meeting Tuesday.

The saga began on the evening of July 7, when a man and a woman jumped off their boat to go for a swim. But it was windy and the boat floated away from them, leaving them exhausted and separated after a vain attempt to get back to the boat.

The first sign of trouble came at 7:42 p.m., when the Becker County Sheriff's Office got a report of an abandoned boat drifting on the lake, south of the Holiday Haven motel on West Lake Drive.

Boat and water deputies Jerron Aschnewitz and Cole Sanders were patrolling on the lake near Long Bridge at the time and headed over to check out the drifting boat.

While attempting to track down the boat owners, the sheriff's office received a report of two possibly injured people in the water between the J&K Marina and the Holiday Haven motel. Someone noticed a person in the lake about 200 yards from shore. Sanders took the patrol boat out there and found a woman struggling to swim. He supported her until Aschnewitz arrived in another boat and the two of them hauled her up to safety.

The deputies then saw a group on a pontoon supporting a man who was hanging on to the side of their boat.

Nathan Rethwisch, Lindsay Anderson, Tracy Rethwisch, Patrick Fritz and Christopher Fritz were pontooning across Little Detroit Lake when Tracy happened to notice the face of a man sticking out of the water. They stopped their pontoon and pulled the man up to the side, supporting him until the deputies were able to get over and help get him safely up onto the pontoon.

Both victims were quickly brought to shore and transported to Essentia St. Mary's for treatment.

"If not for the quick response and actions of Deputy Cole Sanders and Deputy Jerron Aschnewitz, and the observations and actions of the occupants of the pontoon, this incident could have resulted in tragedy," Sheriff Todd Glander said at the awards ceremony Tuesday. "Thank you to all of you for what you did that day!"