Community Remembers 1967 Canal Park Tragedy on 50th Anniversary

Taylor Holt / Photographer: Cole White
July 27, 2017 05:40 PM

"The waves were unbelievable. They were 25 feet high at least," said Ron Prei, looking back on the night of April 30th, 1967.

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He was one of three U.S. Coast Guardsmen who attempted to save three brothers that wandered down Duluth's Pier. 

"Three of us volunteered to go out an look and see if we could find them. We made it all the way out through the Lighthouse circled it and didn't find any of them. On the return trip, Ed was hit by a huge wave and washed over the side," said Prei.

Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson lost his life that night along with the three boys - Eric, Arthur and Nathan Halverson. Now 50 years later on the anniversary, that memory and Culbertson's sacrifice still lives on.

"50 years since it happened, I had to be here. It's just no way around that," said Prei, at a small ceremony held to honor Culbertson on Canal Park's pier.

"Ed was really a fun guy," said Capt. Tom Mackay, who used to work for the Vista Fleet and a friend of Culbertson."It's just very important for me to keep that memory alive."

Mackay returns every year on April 30th to put roses on the plaque in Canal Park dedicated to his friend. 

 said Mackay. "I put one flower (on the plaque) for Ed and three for the Halverson brothers."

This year, he was joined by community members, some who knew Ed, some who knew the brothers, but all honoring Ed's bravery that tragic night.

"It just shows how much our community cares," said Mackay.

"Making sure that his legacy is remembered is all about the people of Duluth and how they respect the people who work for them," said Prei.

A legacy to be honored for years to come.

From that tragedy, the Pier now has fencing as a safety measure. The third Coast Guardsman involved that night - Richard Callahan - has since passed away.


Taylor Holt / Photographer: Cole White

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