Back-to-back canoe rescues on Gunflint Trail

Rhonda Silence

Gunflint Trail emergency responders were stretched thin when they faced not one, but two water rescues on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

The first incident started with a 9-1-1 call to Cook County Law Enforcement at 12:37 p.m. from a SPOT emergency beacon coming from Duncan Lake. Not knowing what the emergency was, Cook County and Gunflint Search and Rescue (SAR) were paged to respond. Members of Gunflint SAR arrived on scene shortly after 1 p.m. and at 1:41 discovered two families on shore—one group that had been in the water.

Passengers in the canoe that capsized were a family of four, Kelly Kean, 45, her husband Adam Kean, 39 and their two children, ages 3 and 14. Kelly Kean told rescuers that the family had paddled across East Bearskin Lake and made it to the end of the portage bringing them to Duncan Lake, where they encountered big waves.

They met another couple at the portage, Lynn Greinert, 66, and Gary Greinert, 69. Because of the rough conditions, the couples decided to tether their canoes together. The couples made it to the middle of the lake before the waves began washing over the gunwales in the Keans’ canoe. As their canoe swamped, the Keans handed their youngest child to the Greinerts and the family swam to shore. The Greinerts activated their SPOT device.

The Keans estimated they were in the water for 45 minutes. Their canoe drifted to shore along with their belongings.

Other responders not yet at the lake were released from the call at 1:58 p.m. The SAR members at Duncan Lake assisted all four paddlers with a boat ride to their vehicles. None of the paddlers were injured, so medical response was not needed.

Another 9-1-1 distress call came in to Cook County Law Enforcement at 1:12 p.m., reporting that a canoe had capsized on Loon Lake. The caller said it looked like the canoeist had a life vest on.

The call came from the residence of retired Cook County Deputy John Hughes. He and his son, Deputy Jason Hughes, got into their boat and headed out to the overturned canoe to assist. At 1:28 p.m., they reached the individual in the water but were unable to pull him aboard. Deputy Jason Hughes reported that the individual was losing consciousness.

Gunflint Ambulance and Gunflint SAR were en route at 1:31 p.m. and on scene at 1:38 p.m. Rescuers made it to shore with the patient, Andrew Gordon, 63, of Springfield, Illinois and he was transported by Gunflint Ambulance, which requested assistance from a paramedic at North Shore Health.

The Cook County Ambulance, with a paramedic on board headed up the Gunflint at 2 p.m. and met the Gunflint Ambulance at 2:15 p.m. at South Brule. The paramedic rode back to the hospital with the patient, arriving at 2:23 p.m. Gordon was treated at North Shore Health and released in good condition.

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