Sheriff: Waves Impeded Rescue Efforts in Sturgeon Lake Drowning

Ryan Juntti
Updated: July 11, 2018 10:11 AM

STURGEON LAKE - A lot of people may have wondered how John Fanning could have ended up drowning when he did in Sturgeon Lake over the weekend.

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It turns out the waves may have been a factor.

"People don't realize how quickly it does happen," said Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson referring to drowning.

An extensive search over the better part of three days ending in tragedy.

"It seems like we always hear in the drowning situations, 'oh they're a good swimmer, this never should've happened, it couldn't have been just a drowning if there is such a thing, but it does,' " said Nelson.

Nelson says John Fanning and a friend were out fishing on Saturday afternoon around 4:30 when a hat flew out of the boat.

Fanning then jumped in after the hat, and that's when Nelson says his friend tried to throw a life jacket to Fanning, but was unsuccessful, so he jumped in.

The friend was then separated from the boat, and had to tread water for several minutes before he was able to yell for help.

Nelson says a jetski then rescued the friend from the water.

Meanwhile the search for Fanning continued.

Nelson says during the search, the waves were around 3-4 feet, which complicated rescue efforts.

"When you've got people out on those waves it just makes everything so much more difficult as far as staying out of position, or even trying to triangulate a position to where to start the search when you have people that are in boats that are drifting," said Nelson. "It really does complicate the whole process," he said.

While it may seem basic, Nelson says preventing tragedies like this in the future starts with wearing life jackets.

"Life jackets will float, people don't. Life jackets save lives," said Nelson.

Helping keep everyone safe while enjoying the lake.

Nelson says Fanning's body was found between 20 and 30 feet of water. He was found on Monday afternoon around 4:40.

Alcohol is not believed to be a part of the incident for either Fanning or his friend.


Ryan Juntti

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