An 18-year-old woman drowned after pulling several of her younger cousins from turbulent river water below a dam in northwestern Minnesota where they were swimming.
Raina Neeland and about seven relatives ranging in age between four and 18 years old were sliding over a rushing 14-foot-high dam that separates Clearwater Lake and Clearwater River on Monday afternoon when they got caught up in the churning water, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office.
‘They use it as a big waterslide,’ Sheriff Darin Halverson said Tuesday. ‘Kids like to do that. … They use tubes or whatever. Lots of times they go over on their own.’
Neeland, of Bagley, had pulled several of the youngsters to safety before she went under, witnesses told authorities.
‘We probably would have had multiple fatalities,’ Halverson told the Star Tribune. ‘The water is just churning under the dam. … She did her part and saved who she could.’
When the first deputy arrived at the scene in Sinclair Township at 3.45pm, an eight-year-old girl had been pulled from the water and initially was unresponsive. Bystanders performed life-saving measures and were able to resuscitate her.
Bystanders also were performing CPR in an attempt to revive Neeland before paramedics arrived, but she was unresponsive.
Witnesses had estimated that she had been in the water for about 10 minutes.
Sanford Life Flight, an air ambulance, landed at the scene a short time later, but Neeland could not be saved.
Halverson said there are signs at the dam warning people to stay away. The water level was high due to a large amount of recent rain, he said.
‘When the water level is lower, it’s not as dangerous,’ the sheriff said. ‘But it’s always dangerous when you are dealing with a dam.’
The water on both sides of the dam, which was constructed in 1931 and is currently owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, are not to be used for swimming, fishing or thrill-seeking, he said.
Meanwhile, Neeland’s older cousin has launched a GoFundMe page to help the young woman’s family,